The nine songs on The Matinee ’22 v. 124 offer a guiding light in turbulent times. Some lift us up, others let us know that we’re not alone, and a few aim to help us reclaim who we are.
Veps – “Mooney Tunes” (Oslo, Norway)
RIYL: Hinds, Dream Wife, Goat Girl
When remarking on “His Brother” from their outstanding, debut EP, Open the Door (which was one of 2022’s very best), we openly hoped that Veps‘ inaugural full-length would arrive this year. Those wishes have come true, as Laura Dodson (guitar), June K. Urholt (bass), Maja B. Berge (drums), and Helena Olasveengen (keys) announced on Friday that Oslo Park will be unveiled a week before U.S. Thanksgiving. The LP could be what launches the talented teenagers into indie stardom, where they are spoken in the same breath as Wolf Alice, Warpaint, and Hinds. However, don’t take our word for it. Instead, allow the record’s first single, “Mooney Tunes”, convince you.
Like the aforementioned Hinds and Dream Wife, the Norwegian outfit deliver a rip-roaring fun single. We can envision swarms of fans dancing exuberantly and hollering at the top of their lungs, “We can’t see the sun”. It’s not just the swimmingly catchy pop-rock vibes and sing-along choruses that will win over fans. Their relatable songwriting, too, will ensure people of all ages jump on to their bandwagon. In this case, they share an anthem for the little people, telling us that they will be here to guide us out of the darkness so that we can see the sun.
“We might be confused,
We don’t know where to,
But let’s take a moonwalk
You don’t have to be afraid
I’ll hold you all the way
As we leave for takeoff”
Oslo Park will be released November 18th on Kanine Records. We cannot wait to hear it in its entirety.
Lowertown – “Antibiotics” (Atlanta, USA)
RIYL: Sun June, Why Bonnie, Housewife
One thing that mainstream superstars could learn from lesser-known indie artists – writing songs that are unabashedly political and social are important, especially in this day and age of misinformation. Music is a powerful form of communication, but to craft meaningful songs requires an artist or band to be fearless. No matter what genre Lowertown are performing, the duo of Olivia Osby and Avsha Weinberg are undoubtedly fearless. Take for instance the brilliant “Bucktooth”, which was an all-out attack on the rise of right-wing extremism. It is one of the songs of the year, and this claim can also be made on their latest single.
“Antibiotics” is another poignant number for the Atlanta pair. While musically the song initially sounds like a gentle, unassuming walk in the park, the lightly grizzled guitar and soft hum of the synth give the track a quiet desperation. This despair is heightened in Osby’s vulnerable voice and lyrics. She shares how a relationship has poisoned her, but despite the toxicity of an ex-partner she continued to go back to him. He was an illness she could not shake, which is a story far too many people encounter everyday. Hopefully these people will find a way out through Osby’s words.
“Beaten up, fallen and blue
Your eyes deceive you
I don’t love you any more
Peel yourself up off the floor
Stop tearing into my skin
I won’t let you in
I won’t let you in”
Cate Le Bon– “Typical Love” (Los Angeles, USA via Carmarthenshire, Wales)
RIYL: Kate Bush, Agnes Obel, Stereolab
If Cate Le Bon performed in the ’80s, she likely would be a rock legend in the same vein as Kate Bush and Siouxsie Sioux because her music can as easily enrapture as it startles. Her previous album, 2021’s Pompeii (via Mexican Summer), was ambitious, adventurous, and surreal. The Welsh artist did this through a minimalist prism, further showcasing her brilliance. One song, however, did not make the final cut, but it gets a second chance.
Prepared to be mesmerized and entranced by “Typical Love”. It’s a captivating concoction of dark-pop, jazz, art-rock, and darkwave. As Le Bon’s sizzling guitar strikes the dark air, Warpaint’s Stella Mozgama provides the suspense with her patiently-delivered drums. For a couple of minutes, we are left enthralled. Le Bon’s vocal streams through the darkness, delivering some memorable lines like, “Mine is like an invite to a demolition / The art of saying nothing / Typical Love”.
The hypnosis, however, is broken when saxophonists Stephen Black and Euan Hinshelwood arrive, bellowing like distant sirens in the fog. But instead of freeing our minds from this place, they add to the song’s unreal, dreamlike sensation and, thus, keep us where we are. Then again, why would we want to leave this marvelous world that Le Bon has created?
Fran – “So Long” (Chicago, USA)
RIYL: Hand Habits, Courtney Marie Andrews, S.G. Goodman
The number of great singer-songwriters who go unnoticed is uncountable. There are so many around that unfortunately the vast majority will never have the spotlight shone on them. The same could be said for Maria Jacobson and their project Fran, but thanks to the fine folks at Fire Talk Records they will get to bask under the warm lights and be heard by more than just the most discerning music fan.
Jacobson has plied their trade for nearly a decade, performing in venues and cafés across Chicago. In 2019, they released A Private Picture, which was a collection of beautifully-crafted, but jarring personal songs. It’s music made for intimate spaces, quiet times, and to get completely lost in for a short while. They take us away once again with another stunning number in “So Long”.
The song is a simple folk tune, but it is fabulously executed. “So Long” sounds solemn at first with the delicately finger-plucked guitar and Jacobsen’s sincere voice, but it is incredibly dreamy and inviting. Fran’s lyrics, meanwhile, are filled with remorse and dabbed with pain. A pain that we can not only feel but empathize.
“I’ve been disappointed
Bent from offering my power
Like a flame under a moving freight,
The light decays and re-centers
Thought I saw you that day”
JW Francis – “I Wanna Be Your Basketball” (feat. Margaux) (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Mac DeMarco + Wallice + Jonathan Richman
JW Francis may say he is a slacker by trade, but the NYC-based artist is extremely intelligent and creative. He can take ordinary life events and make them sound like they are worthy of the big and little screens, as he showcased with “Our Story” and “Casino”. Come to think of it, why isn’t Francis writing scripts for sitcoms? While we’re in the golden age of TV, mainstream comedies could use more clever minds. For instance, we could envision an episode where the protagonist proclaims his love to someone he’s adored for years, but he fumbles the moment because instead of saying “I Love You” he says “I Wanna Be Your Basketball”.
Francis’ latest number is an infectious little ditty made for the perfect spring day. The song is breezy, delightful, and catchy, and it is filled with memorable moments and lines. “I wanna break out (ooh, but I don’t know when) / I gotta get out (ooh, it’ll happen)”, he nonchalantly sings, hoping that his true love literally will pick him up, take him to the outdoor court, and bounce him around. Playing the role of his Princess Charming is Margaux Bouchegnies – or just Margaux – who cannot figure what the problem is. She humorously says:
“Tell me what I’m supposed to do
I’m not being held by you
What good is it anyway when I just want to sleep?”
Sleep we will not with this amusing tune. Hopefully, Francis will have a huge breakout this year, as his new album, Dream House, hits airwaves October 20th. Sunday Best and Domino Record Co. will release it. Pre-orders available on Bandcamp and here.
RIYL: Ela Minus, Esthero, Frou Frou
Ela Minus and DJ Python are a perfect pairing of two great artists. Minus’ ability to take huge statements and turn them into moments that feel more human in scale –as well as her ability to take small statements and transform them into a grand celebration – is part of what makes the dynamic of her music so special. On the first single the pair released, “Pájaros en Verano”, DJ Python’s production and instrumentals take Minus’ formula to new heights, elevating the sound while keeping its heart and soul.
On “Kiss U”, warm synth and interesting percussion kick things off. Some glitches and other digital modulations come in within the instrumental while Minus’ distinctive breathy vocals sing over the noises. But it’s not random sounds. Each layer adds more to the previous, creating a tidal wave of varied emotions. Most notably in the song’s bridge when listeners are left with just lush synth and some deep bass, a moment of clarity emerges before it all comes back in again and Minus repeats “I’m not holding on / I’m not letting go”,
The duo’s debut EP, ‘♡’, is out everywhere on Smugglers Way.
ka lok – “Opium Boy” (Regina, SK Canada)
RIYL: Son Lux; Moses Sumney; Dream, Ivory
We’ve all had moments where we felt uncomfortable in our skins, struggling with understanding who we are, possibly regretting being born within into a race or culture, or wanting to be someone else. In some cases, we accept the labels thrown in our direction, thinking that being called a derogatory term will yield greater acceptance with the crowd. This, however, is done to our own detriment. To share such honest, painful memories can be difficult. For Regina-based producer and artist ka lok, however, writing and releasing “Opium Boy” is therapeutic.
The amalgamation of darkwave textures with industrial tones yields an electrifying and immersive number. ka lok’s voice is shadowy and distant, sounding like a person being torn between two different identities – his actual being and the one that he hides behind to fit in. While we do not often cut-and-paste material, this song warrants this because we could not do justice to what Dalton, who uses his Chinese name “ka lok” as his stage name, has experienced.
“The song is about my anxiety during the height of COVID lockdown in 2020, as well as the resurgence of racism I had not felt since I was in high school. I remember processing the rising xenophobia I had seen directed toward Chinese people on social media in the summer of 2020. This brought back memories of being uncomfortable with being Chinese in my hometown.
“‘Opium Boy’ was a nickname I had been given by students older than me in my high school. This was in reference to the opium problem that China had suffered during the 17th – 20th century. I would always let them call me ‘Opium Boy’ because it was a way for me to be accepted and because I was afraid to speak up. The more time I spent on social media, the more I became afraid of how people in my city would view me. I remember stepping into a grocery store and being unable to make eye contact with other people, afraid they would judge me for being Chinese. I remember seeing old people around the city give me dirty looks, but for the most part, I never ran into any conflict, which I am grateful for.”
With this story only adds to the power of his lyrics, particularly when he sings:
“It’s so unbearable, every cell on every screen
Filling your head with fire, until you want to scream
Open up your eyes, you’ve become the ones you hate
You’re the same, you’re the same, you’re the same”
And ka lok is not the same and thankfully he is not.
Aoife Nessa Frances – “This Still Life” (Dublin, Ireland)
RIYL: Helena Deland, Julia Holter, Midnight Sister
What’s better than a song that resembles a surreal fairy tale? There really is not a whole lot in music if you ask us. Even if it is for a few minutes, the ability to escape to fantasy-land is what we desire and live for. So if you just happen to have a balloon next to you, grab it, head outside to the park, and pretend you’re floating to your favorite, imaginable place with “This Still Life”.
The newest single from Irish singer-songwriter Aoife Nessa Frances is music levitation. It is light, airy, and breezy, and is escapism taken in its purest form. Frances’ voice also is extremely delicate and dreamy, as it hovers through the magical haze. In this otherworldly environment, Frances seeks to rediscover herself. Her words are fantastically poetic yet honest and real.
“I see the vastness of my birth reflecting light on
So scatter flecks of ash all over the horizon
Here I am
I’m waiting patiently
Try catch myself from falling
Deeper in that blue sea”
Indy – “Threads” (Auckland, New Zealand)
RIYL: Gordi, Highasakite, Suki Waterhouse, Lordi
Most by now know that Ella Yelich-O’Connor – a.k.a. Lorde – has a younger sister. Her name is India, but like her elder sister she uses a moniker as a stage name. Simply known as Indy, the 23-year old New Zealander could join her sibling as Aotearoa’s biggest musical export. While she admits to listening and studying Melodrama, her rise to fame will be done on her own terms, and Indy carves out her own niche with her debut single, “Threads”.
The track is a superb blend of Gordi-esque folktronica and the cinematic electro-pop of Highasakite and Cathedrals. At the same time, the song possesses the intimacy and immediacy heard in Suki Waterhouse’s song, particularly in the younger Yelich-O’Connor’s songwriting. Her lyrics are honest and real, as she shares what it is like to be loved and unloved, what is like to be on Cloud 9 and then suddenly completely devastated.
“Love you the same
but I’m afraid that you might let me
Rip at the threads we wove together
and it scares me
Gave you all my younger days
while the lines grow on your face
You won’t go
I hate the thought of us”
If Indy continues down this path, she’ll be a star.
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