The Matinee ’22 v. 137’s bookends highlight the start and end of times while the other seven songs describe the moments and events that have defined us, personally and as a global community. These tracks will provoke, stir emotions, and hopefully help us understand what we need to do to make tomorrow better than today.
Local Natives – “Just Before the Morning” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Local Natives
Some bands create music for the weekend. Local Natives, though, make music made for Mondays. This is to say that their songs possess revitalizing characteristics, like a breath of fresh air or the first rays of sunshine following a stormy night. The band’s magical qualities start with the dual vocals of Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer, who might be two of the most underrated front-persons in the industry. The calming energy that emanates from their voices are reinvigorating, particularly when sung in harmony. With this, kickstart the week with the aptly titled, “Just Before the Morning”.
The quintet’s dreamy psych-pop shines through on their third single of 2022 (following the duo release of “Desert Snow” and “Hourglass” in July). Nik Ewing’s bass throbs beneath the swirling guitars of Rice, Ayer, and Ryan Hahn and an ambient wave of synths. Meanwhile, Matt Frazier provides a steady hand with his feathery drumming, offering the anchor to this blissful number. The music is not the only thing that makes “Just Before the Morning” the perfect week setter. Rice and Ayer’s words, too, touch on the opportunities that come with a new day, where we get to start all over again even if it means doing it alone.
Local Natives are: Taylor Rice (vocals, guitar), Kelcey Ayer (vocals, guitar), Ryan Hahn (guitar), Matt Frazier (drums), and Nik Ewing (bass). The single is out on Loma Vista Recordings.
Westerman – “Idol; RE-run” (Athens, Greece via London, England)
RIYL: Sam Fender, Riley Pearce, in-his-prime Sting
While the January 6th, 2021 storming of the Capitol Building was an assault on American democracy, its impact reverberated across the world. People in all corners of the globe looked on in shock, and many expressed concern that similar events could happen in their country. Misinformation, conspiracy theories, and populism, after all, are not purely American ills. That day and the days which followed resounded with Westerman, which he shares on “Idol; RE-run”.
One of the most thoughtful and intelligent singer-songwriters to emerge over the past half-decade (his Nick Drake-like “Keep Track” is one of our all-time favorites), the Athens-based artist calmly and insightfully articulates how people worship false idols. These individuals who are put on a pedestal may be riddled with blemishes, yet people still think he’s the savior to their problems. In actuality, he may be their greatest enemy. As Westerman sings through the tranquil and stirring alt-folk arrangement:
“There goes a juggling bear.
There’s always going to be another.
We don’t need no re-runs
Looking at the idol,
He looked bored, and he looked drunk.
That matador, survival,
Is all gone now.
Like Mother’s love.
It’s all gone now.
He’s out there running scared,
Like any other motherfucker.”
Housewife – “Stuck” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Soccer Mommy, Fazerdaze, The Ophelias
Since Brighid Fry (she/her) and Pascale Padilla (they/she) already released four songs – “Patrick Bateman”, “Bones (God Like You)”, “I’m Spent”, and “You’re Not the Worst” – from their recently released EP, You’ll Be Forgiven, we thought we would share the fifth and final track from Housewife‘s record. We hope the duo do not mind, but “Stuck” is the cherry on top to their outstanding record.
Like the previous singles, “Stuck” is an inviting and intelligent piece of alt-pop. It showcases Fry and Padilla’s ability to create melodies that simultaneously are catchy yet feel like a quilt wrapped around us on a frigid, wintry day. Their voices, meanwhile, are like the fire burning a few feet away in that their soft and lush delivery touches and warms the soul. Their relatable lyrics, too, penetrate deeply, as they sing about being “stuck” in neutral, unable to move forward nor backwards as they deal with the many stresses in their lives. Housewife, however, offer a piece of advice to themselves that we also can apply: “I’ve got to, got to stop thinking so much.”
We hope, however, Fry and Padilla will continue to move forward and make poignant and provocative music. They are still in their very early 20s, so the opportunities that await them are limitless.
Birds Are Better – “Marigold” (Oslo via Lyngdal, Norway )
RIYL: Radical Face, Sea Wolf, Beirut
Last week, we openly asked who from Norway could breakthrough as the country’s global folk star and, in turn, break the near-monopoly that Sweden has. We thought that Oskar Nordbø could be the one that does it. Today, we have to rephrase that question and ask which artists could do it. In addition to Nordbø, Simen Mitlid is one, and Stian Fjelldal is another.
For most of his career, Fjelldal has used his own name to promote his music. More recently, however, he’s assumed the moniker Birds Are Better. While we are unsure what the exact reasons are for the name change, we can only assume that the native of Lyngdal, which resides in the southwest corner of Norway, wanted to capture his music in a few words. Fjelldal’s alt-folk / dream-folk is heavenly and even fantasy-like, similar to the subtle cinema that Radical Face creates. He takes us to the skies with “Marigold”.
Birds Are Better’s newest single is like a fairy tale coming to life, where the characters jump out of the pages and begin moving when we crack open the book. In most cases, the people, animals, and creatures would be jubilantly dancing or skipping to their secret hideaway. The image that Fjelldal depicts, however, is the opposite. At first, he describes a place that seems mystical and magical, as it is full of stardust, grassy meadows, and bountiful forests. Here, however, our protagonist’s life is in jeopardy. “‘You don’t belong here’, so I’m told”, he sings. These words have him considering where does he belong. After the stirring climax, his final words are soul-crushing.
“I would run forever but I hang by a thread
Somehow too much power and they wanted me dead
With all that said…
When I’m no longer human
What have I become instead?”
Jenny O. – “The Natural World” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Jenny Hval, Dana Gavanski, Kalbells
Jenny O is a shapeshifter. No, she is not some sorceress like Polgara, a mutant a la Mystique, or a wizard who changes form like Remus Lupin and Sirius Black. Jennifer Ognibene applies her skills not physically but sonically and musically. The singer-songwriter refuses to stay stationary, choosing instead to hover across multiple genres, including alt-folk, art-rock, alt-pop, indie rock, and neo-psychedelia. Given her wide range, it is no surprise that she’s a favorite within art and music communities across the globe. She is a musician’s artist, whose songs have garnered the respect and admiration of her peers yet may and probably will never yield platinum records. Popularity, however, does not determine impact, although we wish it did because then more people can hear the important message Ognibene shares on “The Natural World”.
Musically, Jenny O’s newest single should be performed in an art gallery. Subtly, a minimum of three genres are weaved together. Its foundation is melodic, pensive alt-pop, as an electric drum somberly pulses alongside a mournful synth and piano. Ognibene’s looping vocal floats over top, sounding tranquil yet a touch mysterious. As the song progresses, a low-key art-rock approach is integrated, as a grizzled guitar emerges. A few seconds later, symphonic pop filters in with the infusion of strings. The combination of the three genres has a spellbinding effect, drawing us further into Ognibene’s world that see humanity and the Earth exist as one.
Trying hard to give and to know my bounds
I am activated in the natural world
Staying elemental in the body
I’m infatuated with the natural world”
The single is out on Mama Bird Recording Co.
Ladytron – “City of Angels” (Liverpool, England)
RIYL: Goldfrapp, Le Tigre, Terranova
If the previous track had us thinking of reconnecting with our natural environment, electro-pop / new wave / dreamgaze legends Ladytron take us in to the future. Helen Marnie (lead vocals, synthesizers), Mira Aroyo (vocals, synthesizers), Daniel Hunt (synthesizers, guitar, vocals), and Reuben Wu (synthesizers) have been looking forward in time for more than two decades, and, in many ways, they have been prophetic with their sound and stories. They continue this trend on “City of Angels”.
The track sounds like a mind warp from 2050. Humming synths encircle the lightly-executed, reverb guitar, creating a futuristic, psychedelic feel straight out of Blade Runner. Marnie’s voice, too, is from an unforeseen era. It is somehow robotic yet immersive, telling us that somewhere in an unknown time utopia does exist. This place is where love flourishes, where people are able to be and live who they are, and the organic and the metallic live harmoniously. It a pleasant thought to have rather than one of Armageddon. Then again, Ladytron have long been ahead of their time, foreseeing a world and its people for their potential.
Eliza Edens – “For the Song” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Julie Byrne, Big Thief, Andy Shauf
Two years ago, Eliza Edens released her remarkable debut album, Time Away From Time. Back then, we stated that the Brooklyn-based artist was a voice to hear because she was a throwback. That is, she is more than a songwriting but a great storyteller like Mitchell, Baez, Dylan, and Prine. Edens’ talents shine brightly again on her sophomore LP, We’ll Become the Flowers.
The record is filled with superb songs, such as “Tom and Jerry” and “I Need You”, that could be instant classics, and it could land Edens prime placements at prestigious folk festivals like Newport and Pickathon. In these environments, she can leave audiences in silence and with a slight smile on their faces, particularly when “For the Song” is played.
The album’s heart-and-soul is a warm, folksy number that echoes of the aforementioned songwriting giants. Edens’ twangy acoustic guitar brims with the sound of the Appalachians while the feathery percussion and the shallow bass reflect more new-age indie-folk (think Big Thief). Edens’ songwriting, on the other hand, straddles both the past and present. She applies a modern sensibility to the tale of a female artist’s struggles to be heard and respected in the male-dominated music industry of the ’60s. The protagonist, however, perseveres and refuses to let a few men criticize her merely because she does not look like Dylan.
“Saw her sitting there in silence wondering how to carry on
Says ‘I’m no passing illusion or trend you can own
I am not an object you can curse or define
I’ll live and I’ll die and I’ll rise for my lines’
And when the stars come around
And everyone is handing her the crown
She’ll be steady and still”
That person is the aforementioned Joni Mitchell, who Edens one day will be compared to if she hasn’t been already.
Atticus Chimps – “Alien Jewelry” (Gold Coast, Australia)
RIYL: Death From Above 1979, Royal Blood, Drenge
When Aussie outfit Atticus Chimps first emerged on the scene in the late 2010s, they had embraced the grunge edict of angst and rage. As such, they sounded like the second-coming of Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots. The then-trio, however, have become a duo with original band member Sam Bray (vocals, guitar) joined by Daniel Briffa (drums). With the transformation comes a new sound, as the pair enter the realms of punishing garage-rock and turbulent alt-rock. Even though there is no bassist, Atticus Chimps still obliterate ear drums, as evidenced with “Alien Jewelry”.
Turn up the volume with this one so you can fully experience Bray’s Dan Auerbach-like guitar work and Briffa channeling his inner Ben Thatcher. Together, they deliver a surging, sinister piece of sonic propulsion. Its final moments get a bit proggy, but the adrenaline and intensity never wane. In between, Bray recites an awesome tale that we, too, have long wondered about – are we humans the creation of aliens and, thus, their entertainment? Is Earth just an ornament on their Christmas tree that they gaze at while laughing at our antics? If this is indeed the case, such a realization would be as mind-blowingly obliterating as this tune.
October Drift – “Old and Distant Memory” (Taunton, England)
RIYL: Scott Hutchison, The Twilight Sad, The Slow Readers Club
We would be remiss if we did not mention October Drift‘s sophomore album, I Don’t Belong Anywhere, which was released on Friday. The LP is littered mostly with anthemic rockers that are a mixture of Frightened Rabbit-like barnburners and The Twilight Sad’s shoegaze-inflicted anthems. Every song possesses terrific songwriting, touching on the vulnerability of humanity, whether it is watching another deteriorating because of cancer or the illnesses that tear away at the mind. Not every track, however, is explosive. There is one where Kiran Roy, Chris Holmes, Alex Bispham, and Daniel Young ease off the accelerator and stir emotions through tenderness and intimacy.
“Old and Distant Memory” is a jaw-dropper. It is reminiscent of the days when Frightened Rabbit took the stage and around the fourth song they would take a “break”. By break, we mean when Scott Hutchison would be the only member playing his guitar while pouring out his heart and soul. As the song progresses, his band mates would join in, and the crescendo either would be a scintillating, air-sucking moment or a wall of surging intensity.
October Drift replicate the former memory, as Roy sings alone at first with just a lightly-strummed electric guitar playing alongside. A piano then joins, and a cello is heard moments later. He shares how he “never, never gets it right” yet he has “never, never, never lost the light”. Once he sings these words, the song expands, as a gauzy guitar and diligent rhythms emerge and more strings join. The apex is full of wonder and dazzlement, and more importantly, offering us the gift of hope.
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