The Matinee ’22 v. 126 hits the ground running and just in time for the weekend. Eleven songs are on tap, many of which will get the blood flowing and the mind spinning while a couple dazzle with their vulnerable beauty.
Sam Valdez – “Charlie” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Warpaint, Karen O, The Knife
For as long as we’ve covered Sam Valdez, she consistently stunned us with her Laurel Canyon approach. Her music was therapeutic, offering the perfect balance of dreaminess and intoxication. That style, however, is now history – at least for now – because Valdez has a new trajectory. She dropped the first hint a month ago with “Unwind”, which showcased a darker, more pensive side. The LA-based artist continues to walk in this direction with “Charlie”.
While Valdez has dropped some incredible stunners, “Charlie” is her masterpiece. It is brilliantly stark yet sensual and vibrant, as darkwave tones collide with splashes of coldwave and synth-pop. As the keys, synths, and hypnotic rhythm section intersect, Valdez’s distant vocal hovers within the shallow spaces. While the approach is different, Valdez’s impeccable songwriting remains. In this instance, she sounds like Charlie’s conscience, recounting his mistakes and telling him to “walk it off” – to walk off the steam and the terrors in his mind. What has he done?
“You save you no matter what the cost
How’s it cutting out all your friends
Handy with that pocket knife
Go blow of steam drinking in parking lots
Then do downers by the pool and leave pedals dripping to your bed
To your bed”
Absolutely fabulous and one of the songs of the year.
Girl Scout – “Do You Remember Sally Moore?” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Alex Lahey + Alvvays + The Beths
Stockholm is home to a plethora of great artists and bands. It is one of the most underrated music cities in the world, as it is much more than ABBA. First Aid Kit, Shout Out Louds, Peter Bjorn and John, and many others call the Swedish capital home. A band who two days ago released their official debut single could join them very quickly. Yes, we’re going to say it – Girl Scout will be on the fast track to stardom if they can continue to release awesome, catchy, and intelligent singles like “Do You Remember Sally Moore?”
Emma Jansson (guitar, vocals), Evelina Arvidsson Eklind (bass, vocals), Per Lindberg (drums), and Viktor Spasov (guitar) already have a cult following, as they’ve been performing at uni and around Stockholm. With this single, though, that cult will grow exponentially. The track is an energetic pop-rocker that blends the rambunctiousness of The Beths, dabbles with the dreamy tones of Alvvays in the slower moments, and features the clever storytelling of Alex Lahey. As the guitars rumble and the rhythms blast, Jansson looks back at her high school years and the people with whom she spent hours each day. One person, however, stood out, and that is Sally Moore. Wherever Sally is, she is now immortalized in song. Soon, Girl Scout will be immortalized as one of Sweden’s great bands.
The single is out on Made Records, who will release the band’s debut EP in February 2023. Expect Girl Scout to be the new year’s Wet Leg.
Secret Shame – “Color Drain” (Asheville, NC, USA)
RIYL: Makthaverskan, Desperate Journalist, Agent blå
Two years ago, we did a special feature where we asked artists and bands to share their favorite Joy Division songs. Secret Shame participated, and they wrote the following:
“I guess we wouldn’t be here without them? Honestly, I don’t know if Joy Division would make it into any of our top 10, but bands they influenced would. It’s like they shouted on a glacier because it made a cool echo and accidentally started an avalanche. We’re riding that avalanche, caught up in the momentum of displacement from some previous displacement, etc., and it feels pretty cool.
Like the legendary Manchester outfit, the North Carolina quartet are carving out a sizable space within the post-punk world, where they are considered one of the great, young bands to emerge in the past decade. On the strength of their debut LP, Dark Synthetics, and songs like “Pure”, “Victoria”, “Hide”, and “Luxury Bitch”, Lena Machina (vocals, synth), Aster Nema (guitar), Matthew (bass, backing vocals), and Nathan Landolt (drums) are riding the avalanche they’ve created, and the momentum accelerates with “Color Dream”.
The penultimate track from their forthcoming album, Autonomy, sees Secret Shame traverse slightly new territory. The bleak, trembling post-punk ethos remains, but Secret Shame add a surprise. They integrate a gauzy guitar to give the track an unexpected dreamy quality, which draws us into this enrapturing world they’ve painted. This place is Machina’s mind, as she shares how she has coped with loss, pain, and disappointment. “Do I romanticize my own problems? Cause It only helps to hurt when you’re in pain”, she lushly sings. The entire song is filled with great lines, showcasing how this band astounds in multiple ways – through their artistry, the personal nature of their music, and Machina’s outstanding songwriter. They are one of the great post-punk bands today.
Autonomy arrives October 28th and can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp. We’ll say it again: it’s going to be a great one.
Indigo Sparke – “Hysteria” (New York City, USA via Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: Ada Lea, Maple Glider, Rosie Carney
It was not long ago when Indigo Sparke completely intoxicated us with “Pressure in My Chest”. Time felt like it stopped when we first heard it, and this effect is felt with every spin (and yes we still listen to it). That great song captured what the Australian’s music is – the perfect combination of grace, beauty, and vulnerability. All these traits are reflected again on “Hysteria”.
What makes this single and nearly every Sparke’s song immaculate is that no bells nor whistles are used. Instead, she uses traditional instruments to create the chest-swelling melodies. A deftly plucked acoustic guitar, delicate keys, feathery percussion, a soft bass, and a distant second guitar are all that is needed. It also helps to have the voice of an angel, which Sparke has. Her mellifluous vocal easily floats through the intimate arrangement, and it rises and falls with the introspective moments she shares. There is pain and redemption, weakness and strength in the words she shares.
“Hysteria in the weightless crush
Wanna hold you so much
Hysteria in the weightless crush
Wanna hold you so much
Hysteria now its time to leave
And I cannot feel my hands
Hysteria your telling me to breath
I’m going to the promised lands”
Kindsight – “Love You All the Time” (Copenhagen, Denmark)
RIYL: Dehd, Yo La Tengo, DIIV
Earlier this year, Kindsight released their superb and confident debut album, Swedish Punks, which featured some of the year’s best singles in “Don’t You Grow Up”, “Sun Is Always in My Eyes”, “Hi Life”, and “Queen of Cowboys”. The LP was a coming-out-party for one of the best-kept musical secrets in Europe. In many respects, Nina Hyldgaard Rasmussen (vocals), Søren Svensson (guitar), Anders Prip (bass), and Johannes Jacobsen (drums) still are hidden treasures. If this was the mid-’90s, they likely would have been massive favorites of the college radio scene. Their songs, as such, would have been on nearly every coming-of-age film. For instance, we could imagine listening to “Love You Baby All the Time” on soundtracks for Empire Records and Singles.
This hazy and glorious piece of dream-pop will stick in your head for days. It simultaneously induces chests to swell with the gauzy guitars and smiles to emerge thanks to the terrific rhythm section (Prip’s bass is fantastic and the cowbell is an excellent touch) and Rasmussen’s delightful vocal. She does not say a whole lot in the track, mostly repeating the words in the song’s title. Sometimes, however, less is more, and those six words say everything. They also describe how we feel about this song and this great little band.
The single is out on Rama Lama Records.
Miss Grit – “Like You” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: St. Vincent, Francis of Delirium, Oceanator
Margaret Sohn released one of last year’s most impactful EPs when Miss Grit unleashed Impostor. On the EP, Sohn navigated impostor syndrome, both as an acclaimed artist with a breakout debut as well as navigating their youth as a half-Korean person growing up in the white suburbs of Michigan. It was all tied together with some fantastic guitar work and unrestrained sonic creativity. Since releasing Impostor, Sohn has been relatively quiet. However, they just broke their silence by announcing Miss Grit has signed with Mute Records and released the new single, “Like You”.
“Like You” has all of the qualities that makes Sohn such a fantastic artist. Their creativity on full display, starting with some bassy synth that is joined by an electric guitar lead. Sohn’s voice is layered on itself in a truly dreamy way. The song builds in a big way, eventually leading to an explosion of sound and color. There’s a fantastic moment where Sohn’s voice echoes upon itself and then quickly vanishing to reveal a great bass line before it all comes back in again with Sohn’s undeniable guitar work underscoring it all. The approach gives life to her tale of how life imitates art.
“There’s no escape the world they simulate
They want a hold of you to dominate
And I try to abide
So I won’t be denied
CIEL – “Back to the Feeling” (Brighton, England via Netherlands)
RIYL: The Joy Formidable, Black Honey, A Place To Bury Strangers
Not all transformations work out, but when they do the output is extraordinary. So when Ciel [pronunciation: sjɛl], which means “sky” in French, decided to move on from the great, gauzy dream-pop they created in their early years, we tempered our expectations of the trio’s next phase. Our concerns, however, were proven to be unwarranted, as Michelle Hindriks (guitar), Jorge Bela Jimenez (guitar, synthesizer, bass), and Tim Spencer (drums) unleashed a blistering grunge-pop number in “Fine Everything”. They ratchet up the adrenaline and intensity on “Back To The Feeling”.
This song is awesome! Spencer’s throbbing percussion clears the path for Jimenez’s pulsating bass right at the start. An anxious, stark, and anthemic soundscape emerges, and Hindriks’ sizzling voice cuts through the jittery noise. Behind her rings a glistening guitar that offers a bit of light to the darkness. With each passing second, the track slowly grows until it reaches a mini-explosion before descending and cascading again. This roller coaster-like ride is exhilarating. The final minute, in particular, is unforgettable, as a harrowing synth joins the fray to add more desperation to this track about escaping the despair within and around us.
Alvvays – “Belinda Says” and “Very Online Guy” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Alvvays + Cate Le Bon + Wolf Parade
Over the last decade, Molly Rankin (vocals, guitar), Alec O’Hanley (guitar), Kerri MacLellan (keys), Abbey Blackwell (bass), and Sheridan Riley (drums) have become one of the biggest indie bands on the planet. That’s even with the five years of relative silence since Alvvays released Antisocialites in 2017. Half-a-decade is a long time away, and it seemed like the band may have even left us for good. However, they returned in a big way this year with the release of “Pharmacist” and “Easy On Your Own”, and an announcement of BlueRev, their third record. To get us more excited about what is to come, they show two different singles in “Belinda Says” and “Very Online Guy”.
“Belinda Says” is a very Alvvays-sounding track. Rankin’s voice is drenched in lush harmonies, accompanied by a chiming guitar and warm synth in the song’s early moments. It then launches into the stratosphere in the second half with a roaring guitar solo, heavy drumming, and Rankin’s voice booming over all of it. She has become the person she sings about – a woman who despite modest means aims to be more than what she has.
The band go in a different direction on “Very Online Guy”. The song has a distorted nature about it, from the lo-fi drums and synth that kick things off to the vocal track that has a layer of effects on it that make it almost incomprehensible at time. Add in some other strange vocal parts, it almost seems like the track may be too much. Alvvays, however, keep it grounded and the song absolutely rules. The distorted nature echoes the track’s lyrical content, calling out the toxic reply guy culture (and mansplaining) and the chasing of clout.
Magdalena Bay – “Unconditional” (Philadelphia, USA)
RIYL: Carly Rae Jepsen, Fickle Friends, Betty Who
Magdalena Bay‘s Mercurial World was one of our favorite records last year. Mica Tenenbaum (songwriting, vocals) and Matthew Lewin (songwriting, vocals, production) took listeners on an immersive journey through the record’s smart lyrics and infectious pop tunes. The acclaim warranted an expanded edition, which hits shelves today in the form of Mercurial World Deluxe.
The extended version features remixes, some secrets, and two new songs rescued from the cutting room floor. The first was “All You Do”, which was shared earlier this year. “Unconditional” is the second new track from the Mercurial World universe. Described by the duo as “the weird little cousin of ‘Secrets (Your Fire)'”, that connection between the two songs can be felt immediately. A similarly funky bassline and throwback pop styling bring the heat on “Unconditional”. Eventually the bassline is joined by some juicy bass heavy synths. Tenenbaum’s voice is as dreamy as ever. It’s a delightful single, and perhaps it’s best they held onto it for a year and let it emerge from the shadow of its instant hit cousin.
ROE – “Alarms” (Londonderry, Northern Ireland)
RIYL: A.O. Gerber, Madeline Kenney, Lucy Rose
One of our favorite discoveries of the year, Roisin Donald released the first half of her debut album as ROE, That’s When The Panic Sets In, earlier this year. The unique release schedule has benefitted her, as the first half of the record both felt like a complete package with stellar tracks throughout. But knowing a second half was imminent, it got listeners thinking “what’s next!?” With each single that followed, including the stunner “Cold Feet”, That’s When The Panic Sets In began to take shape, and now the wait is over with the full LP out today.
“Alarms” is the last single ROE sharedahead of the record’s full release. The single is also the album’s closer, and it’s a perfect choice for that role. An unbelievably gorgeous song guided early by an acoustic guitar and piano, which lay the foundation for Donald’s powerful voice. Drums kick in as does some reverbed guitar, adding much more impact to what ROE has to say. The build continues with huge harmonies coming in, eventually fading aside for Donald to take center stage one final time before being rejoined by the instrumentals. This turbulent approach sets the scene for Donald’s poignant songwriting, as she describes living with constant anxiety.
The panic starts to settle in
And I’ll do my best
But I’m so full of empty promises
What a letdown
Thought I’d have kicked it by now
Clinging on for dear life
I’ll be waiting up until I’m not
But that day never arrives”
Donald’s new album, That’s When The Panic Sets In, is out in its entirety today (Friday, September 23rd), and it can be picked up on Bandcamp.
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