The Matinee ’22 v. 150 is epic, taking listeners to the far reaches of the galaxy to the bottomless abyss that exists within us. There are soaring rockers and mesmerizing electronica, breathtaking dreamgaze and soothing retro soul-pop. Every single one of the nine songs will stun.
Phoria – “New Beginning” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: M83, Massive Attack, Kyson
Phoria are shapeshifters. With each album and even song, they traverse new directions and landscapes. Their 2013 debut EP, Bloodworks, was a dramatic and gorgeous fusion of electronica, dream-pop, and art-rock. On their sensational debut album, 2016’s Volition, they took listeners on an epic and cinematic roller coaster of emotions. Four years later, they applied their classical training to release a neo-classical classic with Caught a Black Rabbit. So where will Trewin Howard (vocals/composition/production/electronics), Tim Douglas (guitar/bass/synth), James Cheeseman (guitar/synth), Ed Sanderson (piano/synth), and Seryn Burden (drums) turn to next? It could be anywhere, including towards the distant stars, which is where they takeoff towards on “New Beginning”.
The title of the quintet’s first single in more than two years is fitting for a band always looking to reboot itself with each album. On their newest track, they borrow a page from Anthony Gonzalez’ Oblivion soundtrack to send us deep into the unforeseen. Light electronic beats pop while a soft bass surfaces below. This could be the sound of the still life that exists on a spaceship, which flies through the never-ending blackness. Or it could be the sound of a heart monitor, measuring the pulses of a person who has been asleep for years.
Life begins to stir as light begins to shine through the spaceship’s glass or the crevices of one’s eyes. This awakening is felt as the song slowly builds and expands, as an ethereal vocal enters, synths boom, and the percussion accelerates. When the zenith is reached, the moment is awe-inspiring. It is stellar in only a way Phoria could create.
Shame – “Fingers of Steel” (London, England)
RIYL: Blumfeld, The Clockworks, OMNI
An interesting development is happening in music – as post-punk expands and becomes more prominent in today’s music scene, many of the bands who helped the genre reach this point are turning their attention to other sounds. Iceage, IDLES, and Fontaines D.C. have broadened out, entering the realms of rock and Brit-pop. Now it’s Shame‘s turn to jump over the fence and see if the grass is greener.
Within a three-year window, Charlie Steen, Eddie Green, Charlie Forbes, Josh Finerty, and Sean Coyle-Smith released two of the best post-punk albums of the past decade – 2018’s Songs of Praise and 2021’s Drunk Tank Pink, which landed on our Favorite Albums list. Two things stood on these two records: the sonic power and the poignant lyricism. As such, while the quintet may now dabble in new sonic territory, we fully expect these traits to remain, and they most certainly do on “Fingers of Steel”.
Shame have not, however, completely separated themselves of their post-punk foundations, at least on this track. An angular guitar hums at the forefront, reminiscent of the math-like styles of OMNI, Protomartyr, and Ought. A distinct, melodic rock tone, though, fuels the track, giving it a swaying and urgent quality. All the while, Charlie Steen’s voice booms, telling a friend to stop looking at the past and instead to keep his head up and look forward. His words are one we, too, should abide by:
“You know your complaining
Is so aggravating to me.
And you’re wondering now
About all the things that you could have done differently.
You keep retracing
All of your steps so frequently.
Just let it lie,
It never helps.”
Ron Gallo – “Foreground Music” (Nashville, USA)
RIYL: Pavement, Trevor Sensor, Cola
If you’ve had the chance to meet Ron Gallo, he will talk with you for hours (and we personally had such an experience). He might look like Napoleon Dynamite, but he has the imagination and wit of Stephen Malkmus. As such, he’s one of our favorite artists to cover (and we probably should write about him more). The two singles he’s released this year, “Entitled Man” and “Anything But This”, for instance, are fun, catchy, and clever, and easy to write up. The same holds true with “Foreground Music”.
This new tune is immensely amusing and addictive, as it constantly shifts and twists. At times, it takes on the complexion of a light, pop-rock ditty but then it becomes a gnarly, garage-punk number or transforms into a little anthem made for a circus clown. As Gallo pushes and pulls us in all directions, he delivers several outstanding lines that criticizes everything from his own apathy to the over-consumption in which we all participate.
“By the way, how are there so many t-shirts on Earth?
Let’s say on average everyone has 15
Times that by billions of people
How is there enough raw materials?
I wear the same three of them
I’ve got 124 too many
And they just keep coming
I’ve got 9 apples in my kitchen
The store has thousands
There are millions of stores
How are there so many apples?”
Tennis – “One Night with the Valet” (Denver, USA)
RIYL: La Sera, TOPS, Blouse
Few bands can make the dreamy sound groovy like Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore do as Tennis. Through five albums, the husband-and-wife duo have made hearts melt and minds get lightheaded with their ’60s- and ’70s-tinged sound, which is often touched with elements of retro soul, R&B, and psychedelia. Their music is classic, but it also is fresh, inviting, and reinvigorating, especially in these days of overproduced, over-electrified songs. Tennis reveal all these characteristics on their latest track.
On their first new song since releasing the dreamy and honest, Swimmer, Riley and Moore deliver an unhurried yet shimmering number with “One Night with the Valet”. Light keys tickle between a throbbing bass and a groovy, jazzy drum line. Skipping between the notes is Moore’s blissful voice. She sounds like a young woman on Cloud 9, having tasted romance for the first time. Like everyone in this situation, self-doubt lingers because maybe the other person did not feel the same chills. Maybe it’s all in her mind, but she still cannot suppress the possibility of happiness. And this puts a smile on our own faces.
“Finding myself tempted by the face of love
Really fear that I could never get enough
I’m riding high up watching over silent things
Like pearls scattered at our feet”
Tennis’ new album, POLLEN, is out February 10, 2023 via Thirty Tigers.
Cigarettes After Sex – “Pistol” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Cigarettes After Sex
There are love songs and then there are love songs written by Cigarettes After Sex. Whereas most artists and bands take a diarist approach, Greg Gonzalez writes fulsome stories that could be screenplays for a TV show or even a short film. The band’s “K” remains the standard by which we judge love songs because Gonzalez’s songwriting is fantastic while the melody is fraught with fragility. With such a successful formula, why change? If anything, Gonzalez (vocals/electric guitar/acoustic guitar), Phillp Tubbs (keyboards), Randy Miller (bass), and Jacob Tomsky (drums) try to one-up themselves, and “Pistol” comes close to matching the power of “K”.
In their trademark fashion, the quartet keep the arrangement soft, intimate, and a touch woozy with the gauzy guitar lingering behind the feathery percussion and percolating bass. Gonzalez’s gorgeous falsetto, meanwhile, draws us further into the track. He sounds as if he’s sitting next to us, recounting the moments he had and wishes to still have with the person who broke his heart. We not only feel his pain, but we can see it.
“Give me the pistol, aim it high
I’m out in the desert shooting at the sky
Guess I really miss you & I don’t know what else to do
Beautiful pictures that you took of us
Used to hang up there on your bedroom walls,
But you took them all down now & you put them into a drawer
You’ve been on my mind (x)
You’ve been on my mind so long I can’t deal with it”
The single is out on Partisan Records. Surely an album is coming in 2023, which would be the first since 2019’s Cry.
H. Hawkline – “Milk for Flowers” (Los Angeles via Cardiff, Wales)
RIYL: Beirut, Sondre Lerche, Andy Shauf
A songwriter’s songwriter. It might be the greatest compliment an artist could receive, and we’re very confident that Huw Evans – who is better known by his stage name, H. Hawkline – has been called this. One person that certainly has is the great Cate Le Bon, who not only is close friends with Evans but will produce his first album since 2017’s I Romanticize. When two superb talents come together, only one outcome is possible – magic. Like a great trick, the lead single from Milk for Flowers is a crowd-pleaser.
The title track from H. Hawkline’s fifth album is a jubilant piece of folk-pop. With a delightful piano arrangement leading the way and a terrific rhythm section and saxophone in support, “Milk for Flowers” feels like it was made for an English countryside fare in the ’30s and ’40s. However, like with every Evans’ song, there is much more to the tune than its sound. His vivid lyrics describe his multiple states of mind and circumstances. They could be interpreted as a father learning how to hold and feed his newborn child, a man seeking purpose in his life, or an individual just wishing to feel wanted.
“I feel like a nun picking roses
And he never comes when he promises
This milk is too warm for the night
So much to learn, am I holding you right?”
Bodywash – “Kind of Light” (Montreal, Canada)
RIYL: The Raveonettes, Lush, The Jesus and Mary Chain
We’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth saying it again – we admire the resilience of independent artists across the globe. Creating music is not cheap nor is it even profitable for the vast majority, including a star like Lorde. If an indie band can break even while touring and recording an album, they would have done extremely well.
People like Rosie Long Decter (vocals, synth) and Chris Steward (guitar), however, continue to pursue their craft out of pure love. They do it because it is a means for them to express their deepest thoughts, share lessons they’ve learned, and as an escape. Maybe one day, Decter and Steward can turn their nearly eight-year project, Bodywash, into a full-time career, so they can produce ethereal gems like “Kind of Light”.
The Montreal-based duo have delivered a dreamgaze masterpiece that is reminiscent of the grand delights that The Raveonettes and The Jesus and Mary Chain created at the turn of the century. Like these indie giants, Bodywash adeptly lure us in with ease. Steward’s guitar blazes like a candle, offering the flame that shines on Decter’s stellar voice. Synth and electric drums then kick in, and the tune becomes brighter, eventually turning into a mesmerizing fire. Decter’s voice barely changes, though, as she sings an ode to someone that has gone to a distant place.
I’ll make a mirror out of the
Things you left behind
I’ll make a mirror out of a
Certain kind of light”
The single is out on Light Organ Records. Here’s hoping again that Bodywash will have their day in the spotlight.
Royal Blush – “Witness” (Jersey City, USA)
RIYL: The Joy Formidable, Blood Red Shoes, Silversun Pickups
When we heard “Cherry Cola” and “Roll the Dice”, we said Royal Blush soon will be playing in venues all across New York City and the surrounding tri-state area. We need to amend this statement to say they’ll be playing in every venue imaginable across the globe if they continue to create high-octane indie rock. Who would not want to hear a song that gets them in a sweaty mess, which is what “Witness” would do?
For nearly four minutes, Allison Heckart (vocals), Andrew Merclean (guitar), Matt Quinones (bass), Josh Barsch (drums), and Chris Gennone (production) deliver an unrelenting, surging rocker that features some awesome guitar licks, including a ravenous solo; outstanding drum work; and a propulsive bass line that would have the likes of Flea and Paul McCartney beam proudly. In the midst of this swirling intensity lies Heckart’s soaring and standout vocal. When she repeatedly hollers, “Can I get a witness”, we, too, shout with her. That is what a great front-person does, and Heckart very well could be considered on the very best very soon.
Look out world for this band on the rise.
Head Under Water – “Stay” (Cologne, Germany)
RIYL: Son Lux, Zola Blood, James Blake
If it is dusk where you are, then this tune will be the perfect night cap. Even if it is still light out, “Stay” will calm the nerves and leave you in a state of intoxication. That is the power of Head Under Water and his newest single.
Soft beats and taut percussion hover alongside the immersive and sparkling synths and electronics. Combined, they create the sensation that we’re floating on still, dark water. What surrounds us is unknown, and all we can do is make our way to the enchanting, distant vocal. Softly, HUW sings in our direction, wrapping his warm falsetto around us. But instead of guiding us to him, he sends us into the opposite direction because he does not want us to descend to his position. His words are as gripping as the music he has created.
“I’ve fallen to the edge
I thought it would never end
Known better to pretend
Just let me live again
And this is the flood
Skin that thought
Skin that memory
When you’ve flown as far out let me choose again”
Head Under Water’s debut EP is expected in 2023.
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