From playful tunes to tracks made for road trips and destination-less drives to jaw-dropping, knee-buckling numbers, The Matinee ’22 v. 102 is a treasure trove of outstanding new music. Many of the songs featured are worthy of song-of-the-year consideration.
Hazel English – “Hamilton” (Los Angeles, USA via Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: to dance within a dream
Early in her career, two traits characterized Hazel English‘s music – a dreamy intimacy and full of self-reflection. A seriousness and contemplation often steeped through her lyrics, which is unsurprising considering English had moved from Australia to the Bay area at a young age. Now based in Los Angeles and approaching ten years in America, English seems to have found herself – or at least landed on her feet. Working with Jackson Phillips, who is better known as Day Wave, certainly seems to have given the Aussie an extra pep in her step. Her music, likewise, is more vibrant and upbeat. It also is “playful”, which perfectly describes her newest single.
“Hamilton” feels like the most energizing dream one can have. It is a scintillating piece of dream-pop made for every dancehall, whether that’s a high-school gymnasium or a nightclub overlooking the bright lights of Paris. As such, this track will incite dancing, smiling, and feeling immense joy. It might also cause a flash mob, which English playfully describes in one scene.
She also speaks about going to Switzerland in a blimp. Both instances happen with the cigarette-smoking, James Dean-like Hamilton. They also occur in a dream, which is where English finds her happy place and longs to stay. When she wakes up, the elation felt disappears. But in this song, our elation is sustained because we are living inside this wondrous dream.
Young Jesus – “Ocean” (feat. Tomberlin) (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: to hear one of the most stunning songs of the year
Have the oxygen ready or find a place where fresh air is easily accessible because this next single will seriously steal your breath away. We are not exaggerating when we say “Ocean” from the John Rossiter-led outfit Young Jesus is one of the year’s – one of the decade’s – most stunning and beautiful songs. It is also one of the most poignant lyrical pieces of the last ten years.
For just over 4.5 minutes, Young Jesus take us on an extravagant journey across a tranquil sea. The light patters of the guitars and what seems to be a banjo along with the soothing, ambient electronics and electric harp form the vessel on which we drift across this sonic current. Providing the wind behind the sails are Rossiter and his first mate Sarah Beth Tomberlin, and their gorgeous, trance-like vocals guide us into an uncertain destination. They guide us to places where difficult questions are asked and few answers are provided. In this case, Rossiter questions what faith is and to what degree must one sacrifice to find inner peace. His lyrics are stellar.
Give your life unto the weave
To the fabric and the seam
To the drift of what you’ll be
Like the wind run through the leaf
Like the storm and like the breeze
You’re a body meant to dream
In the grip and the release
Walk a fragile path to peace
Where I am is where I’m not
God is just the ocean where I’m lost
“What is loss?” a moon responds
Love is of the questions I ask God”
Unquestionably, this is one of the top-10 songs of the year.
Sirene – “Demon & I” (London via Leeds, England)
RIYL: to hear one of the most incredible voices on the planet who buckles knees with her words
Speaking about great voices, Clare Kelly – a.k.a. Sirene – possesses an unforgettable one. The young English singer-songwriter has repeatedly bowled us over. This year alone, she has astounded us on “Walk Alone” , “Here You Are”, and “In or Out”. Now, we’ve run out of words to describe the power of her voice and songwriting. And maybe we do not need to say anything. Instead, maybe we just need to step away and allow Kelly’s music speak for itself because her songs emote many, many feelings, and “Demon & I” is no different.
Our task today with this song is to just be a guide. First, listen to the harmony between the piano and percussion and how they surround Kelly’s multi-octave vocal. Second, pay attention to every word because they are just as jarring as her voice. The opening lyrics are knee-buckling, setting the tone for the rest of the track.
“Forgive me, Father
If it’s a sin
Slide, power off”
As the song gradually progresses, her voice and lyrics become even more powerful and devastating. The track’s story, too, becomes clearer – that of an obsessive mind consumed by the memory of deceased lover. The tale is a little morbid and frightening, and to think it was written on Valentine’s Day.
“I restrain my body, retrain my mind
But your taste remains the same
I restrain my body, retrain my mind
We won’t apologise
My demon and I
Feel your frequencies everywhere
You’re everywhere to me
How I’m infatuated with your memory
We won’t be meeting again”
Simply outstanding. Again.
Sirene’s debut EP, Communication Conversation, is out August 19th. If you’re in London on August 24th, head to Shacklewell Arms for the release show. Tickets are available here, and they are free.
Gemma Laurence – “Lavender” (Brooklyn via Brunswick, Maine USA)
RIYL: a heartfelt, Americana number that will take you away from the urban jungle
In May, Gemma Laurence appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s Battle of the Instant Songwriter, singing “Is It Love, Or Is It Cake?”. While it was a fun, little, comedic segment, it had a lot of personality and showed Laurence could capture almost any feeling with her words, even if it’s about cake. It’s also a quality that’s obvious throughout her 2019 record, Crooked Heart.
On her latest single, “Lavender”, Laurence sings about embracing one’s true self. She wrote the song with the intent to be an anthem to celebrate transness, after a friend of hers came out as a trans woman. It’s a song that tells a story that many trans people experience, such as being expected to act a certain way from birth and trying to fit in among a conservative town. It’s about feeling the distance between those actions and someone’s true self. With soaring harmonies and wonderful guitar work supporting her, as well as an appearance on backing vocals from the friend who inspired the single, Laurence shares some incredibly powerful lyrics.
“A lonesome shroud of dissonance settles in your skin
In your color-coded uniforms you’re wearing to fit in
Anxiety’s a little league and fear’s a locker room
Teenage suffocation in your body’s own cocoon
And I know it’s not easy
To shed your skin and be the woman
You were born to be”
“Lavender” is the title track for Laurence’s upcoming record, which will be released on Better Company Records.
Breanna Barbara – “Diamond Light” (Queens, NY USA)
RIYL: a trip back to the ’70s and the dusty, desert-like psych-pop
In 2016, Breanna Barbara wowed us with “Sailin’ Sailin'”, which was taken from her terrific, cosmic-country album, Mirage Dreams. The album sounded like it was straight out of the ’70s and ’80s, and it was a retro delight. Since then, Barbara took a four-year hiatus and then released a handful of singles over the last two years. She, however, is now fully back in the saddle (sorry, we couldn’t resist), prepping the release of her new album, Nothin’ but Time, which was a five-year labor of intense love. To signal her return, Barbara unleashes a nostalgic banger with “Diamond Light”.
Get on your horse or whatever your favorite mode of single-person transport (like a bike) and start riding towards the horizon. This ’70s, psych-pop blast sounds like it emerged from the floor of the Mojave Desert, blistering our feet from the heat of the swirling, jangly guitars and groovy rhythms. Keeping us cool, however, is Barbara’s emotive vocal. Just like the soundscape that surrounds her, Barbara’s words are drenched in memory. She recalls the people and events that have influenced her. They are the “diamonds” in her mind, and they are the motivation for her to not just succeed but to exceed everyone’s expectations.
Stella Donnelly – “How Was Your Day” (Perth, Australia)
RIYL: a clever lyricist who turns little moments into grand stories
Whether it’s her razor sharp wit or her unapologetic statements, Stella Donnelly truly is one of the most interesting songwriters today. Her debut record, Beware of the Dogs, was an instant classic. Some people talk about sophomore slumps, but from the lead pair of singles, “Lungs” and “Flood”, Donnelly’s second LP, Flood, is shaping up to be something special already.
The third single, “How Was Your Day”, continues that trend. Taking lyrics from actual conversations, Donnelly delivers them in a spoken-word manner. Over the bouncy bass and catchy guitar, Donnelly brings some life to some seemingly mundane conversations full of small talk, like the song’s title. However, Donnelly draws attention to the fact that many of those conversations mask a deeper need for serious conversation.
“Time to open up, how was your day
Feels like breaking up, calling my name
A polite conversation about unclaimed mail
Felt like a deadly a deadly lit candle left up in a room
An old piece of currency for a dollar at the open market
You had the best car in the street but there was nowhere to park it
You said I can’t do this anymore I can’t do this anymore
We let our patterns and bad behaviours take over”
chemical club – “Hell in a Heatwave” (Ottawa, Canada)
RIYL: a song that captures the sunshine and coastal breezes of California
A quick look at chemical club‘s Bandcamp page reveals just how prolific the duo have been in creating music – and they’ve been doing this out of the comforts of their bedrooms. For most of their three years as a band, the Ottawa natives have done everything independently, and the results are pretty great. Their DIY days, however, are now in the rear-view mirror, as they are the newest addition to the Arts & Crafts roster. With such a great label behind them, they will be able to record in a studio and create a crisper sound. They will be able to take their songs to grander heights or to unexpected destinations, as is the case with “Hell in a Heatwave”.
chemical club’s newest tune beams with the breezy exhilaration of the California coastline. It is dream-pop made for the summer – actually that defines what summer is. With its vibrant melody highlighted by the gauzy guitar and the fantastically bouncing drum line, the song is the perfect soundtrack for a drive along rugged coastlines and open roads. It’s the ideal accompaniment for cutting curves at the skate park or as the tune that brings friends together on a Saturday evening. “Hell in a Heatwave” is the song we turn to if we want something to help us forget about our problems and look forward the weekend. As the pair share:
“I write my life on burning pages
Yet waste today awaiting changes
That never come
Just like nothing ever does
Until you take it
Until you make them
Hell in a heatwave”
Look out Canadian, you have two future stars in the making.
GIFT – “Gumball Garden” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: gauzy goodness that seems to come straight from the stars
If we did the usual RIYL, where we provide comparisons, GIFT would be mentioned alongside DIIV and Lonerism-era Tame Impala. Granted, the NYC-based quintet are still early in their careers, so it is a bit early to put them on the same mantle as the aforementioned living legends. However, TJ Freda, Jessica Gurewitz, Kallan Campbell, Justin Hrabovsky, and Cooper Naess could reach such lofty heights very soon since they have a pretty cool label behind them (Oliver Ackermann’s (of A Place to Bury Stranger) Dedstrange). They also have an awesome sound, one that could have been born inside a collapsing star. At least that’s what their latest single hints at.
Buckle in and get ready for a cosmic adventure with “Gumball Garden”. While none of us have been to space, this track captures what we think it would feel like. It is trippy, exciting, a little delirious, and fully awe-inspiring. The band brilliantly keep the song moving, having it shift multiple times to mimic the feeling of passing planets at supersonic speed, slowing down to observe supernovas, and rattling like turbulence as we enter an asteroid belt. For Freda, though, the adventure he shares is one within his mind. He explains his inner battles, which includes battling with vertigo and depression. Like this song, his mind can race, slow down, and go in all sorts of directions.
“What’d you say?
Everyone’s left and gone away
I laugh until the feeling has passed
I walk in circles everyday
Wait for this dream to fade away”
Our memories, however, do not fade away – at least not when it comes to remembering the name GIFT. What an introduction to a band that could be the leaders of a new generation of shoegazers.
Pale Blue Eyes – “Little Gem” (Totnes, England)
RIYL: songs that ring with the optimism of the early 2000s
Could this be the year that Pale Blue Eyes emerge as indie sensations? Can they catapult to the top of indie and college-radio charts while getting plum spots on BBC Radio One? We’re bullish on their potential. So, too, are Public Broadcasting System, The Besnard Lakes, Sea Power, and The Silverbacks, all of whom have asked Matt Board (vocal, guitar), Aubrey Simpson (bass), and Lucy Board (drums) to open for them on tour. Time will tell if the masses will gravitate to their mix of synth-pop, krautrock, new wave, art-rock, and indie rock, but they won’t be criticized for their music. The songs they have shared to date from their forthcoming new album, Souvenirs, including “Globe”, have been nothing short of stellar. They once again impress with “Little Gem”.
Just like the video shows, this song is made for the open air, whether it’s cruising in your convertible or running with the purpose of seeing someone or achieving a goal. It is music intended to rejuvenate the soul. The trio achieve this by brilliantly merging contrasting sounds. A dream-like quality emanates from Matt’s falsetto and chiming guitar while a jittery energy emerges from Lucy’s terrific drum line. Simpson’s Peter Hook-esque bass, on the other hand, provides the propulsion and urgency, acting like the kick in the pants we need to get our day started. As much as this song is a pick-me-up for us, it is also for the band, as Matt sings:
It was meant for Sundays
Can’t deny it’s quiet ’round here
With a bunch of questions
So what do we do
Head in the clouds
Deep in the ocean
Do you feel it?
My better judgement keeps me low”
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