The Matinee ’22 v. 123 eases in with grace and intimacy before transforming into a whirlwind of magnetic shoegaze. It is, in other words, an experience that displays how music can soothe the soul and then instantaneously blow our minds.
Hand Habits – “Greatest Weapon” & “Under The Water” (feat. Amelia Meath) (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Cassandra Jenkins, Olivia Kaplan, Ada Lea
A year ago, Meg Duffy unveiled Fun House, which was not just a great album but one of 2021’s very best. It showcased Duffy’s expansive talents, as they extended themself beyond the intimate folk-rock of their early years. The record, too, was insightful, intelligent, and emotional, as it beautifully articulated life’s many dualities.
Since then, Duffy has remained busy, touring around the world and working on new music for what hopefully will be a new album next year (fingers crossed). What could be a hint that an LP is in the works, the LA-based singer-songwriter released two songs the other day as part of Psychic Hotline‘s Single Series, and each possess the Duffy magic.
The first is “Greatest Weapon”, which is a warm, immersive, and dreamy folk-rock number. As fantastic as the arrangement is, particularly the banjo and slide guitar, Duffy’s impeccable voice is the star. They sing about how time is the greatest weapon and “the ruler of my health”. How time governs what we do, when we do it, and when everything comes to an end.
On “Under Water”, Duffy rewinds the clock further and enters the days when the Laurel Canyon scene defined music. Their finger-plucking guitar work is terrific, but Duffy does not sing on the track. Instead, Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso has the honors. Her voice is gorgeously soft and lush, as she recounts the first time she held her head beneath the surface.
“Under the water I hear everything
quiet and loud is the very same thing
can only be down here til I count to ten
then I’m up again”
The two songs can be streamed everyone and purchased on Bandcamp.
Astles – “Somebody’s Father, Somebody’s Son” (Liverpool, England)
RIYL: Paul McCartney, Jim James, Keane
How many people can say that Sir Paul McCartney has personally approved one of their unreleased songs? Probably not a whole lot. Dan Astles, however, is one of the few who can make this claim. Using just his surname as his stage moniker, the Liverpudlian received The Beatle’s nod of approval for “Somebody’s Father, Somebody’s Son”, which was unveiled to the world a week ago.
A sole listen to the track is all one needs to understand why Sir McCartney enjoyed the song – it sounds like something he would have written for The Beatles during the Let It Be sessions. The melody is charming, warm, and soothing, highlighted by the diligent piano arrangement and the splashes of strings and a sax. Astles’ voice, meanwhile, has a Jim James-like tone, and like the My Morning Jacket front-man his lyrics are both introspective and poetic. He reflects on his life and assesses what his purpose is. As he shares:
“Don’t you ever feel like nobody knows you?
Floating round like you were a living ghost.
Maybe one day I’ll be somebody’s Father,
Well, I’ve already been somebody’s Son”
Maybe Astles’ purpose is to impress some of the most influential people in music history – and music fans, in general.
The song is out on 7476. We’ll predict that an EP or LP is coming soon.
Breanna Barbara – “Landslide” (Queens, NY USA)
RIYL: Karen O & Danger Mouse + Space + Blondie
When Breanna Barbara shared the perfect getaway tune with the ’70s psych-pop blast “Diamond Light” in August, she emphatically announced her return following a five-year hiatus. The song re-introduced music fans to an artist who puts the cinema into music. She does exactly this with “Landslide”.
Once again, Barbara channels the past and delivers a dizzying, trippy, and infectious number. “Landslide” is a little funky, is extremely groovy, and made for a good time. The bass line and the whammy guitar are awesome, and they sound like they were shot out of the canons of the space-disco scene of the ’70s. Like so many of the songs from that era, Barbara’s newest track serves as a wake-up call, shaking us from our stupor and making us understand the predicament we are in. Her distant vocal is like our conscious screaming between our ears and telling us to take off the rose-colored glasses and fight through the hypnosis. She wants us to understand that it is ok to walk way from a situation, especially if our gut says something is not right.
Don’t walk away from Barbara, though, as she could be 2022’s feelgood story.
Babehoven – “Stand It” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Girlpool, Why Bonnie, Ratboys
Babehoven have been a favorite here since the first time their music graced our ears. They made our Favorite Hidden Gems of 2020 list. However, it seems like that status of Maya Bon and her friend and collaborator Ryan Albert as a yet-to-be-discovered band is in jeopardy with the impending release of their debut record, Light Moving Time. It’s something that became obvious when they released the stellar and stunning “I’m On Your Team” a few weeks ago, which is a true Song-of-the-Year candidate.
Babehoven make an even stronger case with the second single from the record, “Stand It”. Gorgeous chiming guitar chords mixed with a perfectly warped guitar lead ease listeners into the song. It only builds from there with Bon’s voice floating over everything, including the intensifying guitar. Lyrically, it hits a little harder, too, as Bon sings about being there for each other and enduring the hard times together – a theme that also defined “I’m On Your Team”.
“There’s only so much time I can say
I love you and I’m thankful for you everyday
I love you but I’m running out
I’ve got a bulb and a socket in my mouth”
Tiali – “Jigsaw” (Central Coast, Australia)
RIYL: Courtney Barnett, Caroline Rose, Ron Gallo
The incredible Australian singer-songwriters just keep coming, and the next one arrives in the name of Tiali. The Central Coast-based artist just released her debut single, and if she keeps this momentum, she’ll be as big as Courtney Barnett or Julia Jacklin in no time.
What’s obvious about Tiali from the instant “Jigsaw” starts is that she’s not holding anything back. It’s a great rock and roll track with undeniable energy, which is taken to a new level with Tiali’s insistence that her band jump along and record the song like it were a live show. Touches like that, and the confidence to execute them, are going to be what make people pay attention to Tiali. The song feels chaotic, it feels huge, and then it breaks down to Tiali saying “sorry I’m a part-time bitch“. But there’s no need for this future heavyweight star to apologize because the world could sure use more artists like her.
Skullcrusher – “It’s Like a Secret” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Maple Glider, Tomberlin, Rachel Bobbitt
Skullcrusher‘s music is like a sun shower – beautiful to experience as the colors of a rainbow emerge as the droplets are touched by the piercing rays of sun. Her songs are magical, as she displayed with “Whatever Fits Together” and her more recent releases, “They Quiet the Room” and “Quiet the Room”, which were two versions of the same song. Helen Ballantine’s ability to craft songs that elicit numerous emotions is what makes Quiet The Room one of autumn’s most highly anticipated albums.
The fourth single from the record, “It’s Like A Secret”, is as breathtaking as anything we’ve heard from Skullcrusher. Just a hint of synth, some ambient background noise, and acoustic guitar warmly welcome listeners. Every finger movement on the guitar can be heard brightly, adding so much to the atmosphere. Ballentine’s voice is barely more than a whisper through most of the song, but it wields such power. Hearing harmonies flow in and out occasionally, sometimes underscored by a piano, they are reminders that something beautiful is always brewing underneath, especially in the song’s final moments.
“It’s like a secret
And in order to share it
I’ll have to bring you within
And see it all through your eyes”
cruush – “False Start” (Manchester, England)
RIYL: Lush, Ringo Deathstarr, My Bloody Valentine
Buckle in folks because the next four songs will take you on a scintillating ride. The musical trip begins with a track that not only echoes the great shoegaze bands of the ’90s but revitalizes the genre. Think Lush and My Bloody Valentine brought into the present and their music representing the uncertain and dark times of the 2020s. This is what cruush have done with “False Start”.
Simply put, Amber Warren (vocal, guitar), Arthur Boyd (guitar), Ru Cowl (bass), and Fotis Kalantzis (drums) have crafted a shoegaze classic. The young, Manchester outfit embed post-punk and Gothic textures to give “False Start” a harrowing tone, which is ideal for these extraordinary times. Milton’s bass line, in particular, gives the song an added starkness as do the dueling guitars of Warren and Boyd. Warren’s voice, meanwhile, is at first radiant and dazzling. It then intensifies and momentarily becomes menacing before falling into a state of delirium. She is one of the many battling an invisible enemy, who plays with our mental health and, thus, our entire being.
“I am speechless
but I’m weakening
lacking trust in my instinct
I’m not leaving”
Awesome. Just awesome.
GIFT – “Feather” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: lo-fi DIIV, Hibou, Surf Rock Is Dead
Our introduction to GIFT happened very recently when the NYC-based quintet unveiled “Gumball Garden”. The track was startling in its effect, as it took shoegaze to dizzying, trippy heights. The genre-that-just-won’t-die, however, does not always have to be electrifying. In the right hands, it can be entrancing. Although TJ Freda, Jessica Gurewitz, Kallan Campbell, Justin Hrabovsky, and Cooper Naess are still early in their careers, we can safely say they are maestros of the genre because only true masters could create something as alluring as “Feather”.
The latest single from the band’s forthcoming, debut album, Momentary Presence, can only be described as a slow-burning delirium. It is mesmerizing and hypnotic due to the patiently-delivered and methodical rhythms, the humming keys, and Freda’s distant yet soft vocal. Occasionally the calm is interrupted by gauzy blasts from the guitars, but for the most part the track feels like we are drifting through worm holes and entering new dimensions. For Freda, he is moving between states of being, seeking to put an end to “psychic destabilization” while finding balance. With this spellbinding number, GIFT has given us a tune to help us find our own equilibrium.
Holy Ship – “Hail Haze” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: POND, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, GUM
If the previous song had us listing in space, this next tune has us hurtling alongside comets and speeding passed planets, asteroids, and stars. When revved up and taken to blistering heights, no other genre can match shoegaze’s ability to send listeners well beyond our stratosphere, as Holy Ship‘s “Hail Haze” demonstrates.
The newest single from Jonatan Westh, who was formerly with the late ’00s shoegazers BLACKSTRAP, is an exhilarating ride into the far reaches of the cosmos. The places he sends us on “Hail Haze” are only viewed in a NASA or Brian Cox documentary, imagined in the books of Gene Bradbury and Douglas Adams, and depicted in The Guardian of the Galaxy franchise. For 218 seconds, we race, spin, and dance with Westh, as his gauzy guitar and the rumbling rhythms take control of our minds and bodies. While we are under his spell, his words about living in the moment ring loud and clear. Forget about tomorrow because what matters are the opportunities that lie before us.
“Hail Haze” is taken from Westh’s new EP, Sun Macabre! The record will be released later this year on Declared Goods.
Psyence – “Nobody Understands” (Stoke-on-Trent, England)
RIYL: mid-career The Arctic Monkeys + Royal Blood + Fontaines D.C.
Way back in 2017, Psyence were one of our Favorite Hidden Gems, as the British quartet wowed us with their anthemic brand of post-punk and psych-rock. Steve Pye (guitar and lead vocals), Jay Bellingham (bass), Joe Walsh (drums), Ben Nixon (keys) and Jamie Cartlidge (guitar and vocals) were fearless. While they have aged and matured, they continue to make explosive music, and their latest tune is a reminder of their relentless fury.
“Nobody Understands” is 4.5 minutes of propulsive energy. It sounds like a 20-tonne bomb has detonated with the noise that explodes from the raging guitars, the crushing percussion, and searing keys. The fury heard in the second half, in particular, is mind-blowingly awesome. Pye’s voice, too, blisters in the air, desperately hollering through the noise in the hopes that someone can hear him. That someone can understand these explosions are actually within his head. “My mind is a weapon and it’s built to self-destruct / I am my own worst enemy!”, he tells us.
The world may self-destruct on September 30th. That is when Psyence’s forthcoming sophomore album, Lessons in Forgetting Everything (L.I.F.E), will be unleashed.
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