The Matinee ’23 v. 005 is a truly global affair with seven countries represented. It also features a couple of heavy hitters, including one artist part of a superstar band going solo. A common theme unites the nine songs – to bravely confront our fears.
Ben Gregory – “Manifest” (Hampshire, England)
RIYL: Blaenavon, Ulrika Spacek, PRIESTGATE
It wasn’t long ago when Blaenavon were considered one of the UK’s best – if not THE best – indie bands. While still just teenagers, the band’s 2017 debut album, That’s Your Lot, was lauded by pundits while their sophomore LP, Everything That Makes You Happy, was equally celebrated. Despite their popularity rising, they announced their breakup last year. While the news was disappointing, change also yields opportunity. For Ben Gregory, it is the launch of his solo career.
His inaugural single, “deathbed hangover”, which was released last month, was a scattering, claustrophobic yet hypnotic track. It was an eye-opener in that it was dissimilar to anything Blaenavon had created. However for song number two, Gregory goes in the polar opposite direction and dazzles.
“manifest” is a welcoming, warm, and gorgeous single. Desperation, however, bubbles beneath the lush alt-pop soundscape. As the track progresses, Gregory’s intimate vocal intensifies, becoming more urgent as he shares how he struggles to balance reality with hope. He describes various scenarios – from sharing how he thought he would ask another to marry him, being questioned by others about his worth, and wondering whether the events of the recent present are aberrations or curses. As Gregory attempts to resolve these puzzles, one question seems to have a definite answer – Gregory has not lost a thing as a solo artist.
Purr – “The Natural” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Plains + Jess Williamson + Jenny O
Life works in funny ways, where the best laid-out plans go awry while the unexpected turns out to be the best path to pursue. For singer-songwriters Eliza Barry Callahan and Jack Staffen, Purr was originally supposed to be a side project to their solo work and other career endeavors (e.g., Callahan is an author, filmmaker, and set designer). But after their debut album, Like New, was celebrated for reviving 1960s and ’70s AM radio, Purr stands on equal footing to everything they do. A year ago, they released two singles – “STM” and “Many Days” – that offered a flavor of what is to come. While fans hope for a new album, that news has not come. At least not yet but “The Natural” will only feed hopes and rumors.
Callahan and Staffen’s newest tune once again revives the music and sounds of five decades ago but with a modern touch. Seventies folk-rock is given a cinematic tone with subtle touches, such as an electric organ and a steel guitar crying beneath the rhythm guitar and feathery percussion. Jonathan Rado’s production yields an atmosphere that feels like twilight, where there is a mystery lurking in the shadows. Callahan’s vocal and lyrics also create this feeling. With doubt lingering under each breath, she shares how she’s never been a natural at many things, and it affects how she perceives herself and interacts with others.
“I get bored in the middle of the night
wake up in the morning and I want to start a fight
You said I still look 17
You’ve got a few years left to make it in a magazine
A smile like old smoke that hangs
You give that look of give and take
And you haunt me
L’ésprit de l’escalier
You said, I never want to hear you say
What you’ve wanted…”
This wonderful single is out on ANTI Records. Surely a new album is coming.
Freyr – “Abandoned Places” (Wiesbaden, Germany via Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Nick Drake, José González, Jesse Marchant
By now, Freyr Flodgren should be a household name – or at least known throughout the folk industry. His voice is as gentle as Nick Drake and Sufjan Stevens. His musical approach is akin to the gorgeous and widescreen soundscapes José González creates. Meanwhile, his outward songwriting resembles that of Elliott Smith and The Tallest Man on Earth. His 2021 album, Nicotine Bunker, captured all his talents and his vision of what indie-folk should be: radiant, cinematic, and emotional. On “Abandoned Places”, Flodgren once again demonstrates why he should be a highly sought after addition to any festival.
Listen closely to hear the subtle tension that the Swedish singer-songwriter creates. At times, the track is light and nearly heavenly, but in other moments it is downtrodden and pensive. This tension is a battle between light and darkness, taking short cuts or the long road, and good versus evil. Or as Flodgren shares in the press release, “It’s the angel on one shoulder and the demon on the other.” When we reach this state of real-life purgatory, where we are unsure of what path to take, the following happens:
“We’re moving slowly through abandoned places
This is where we end up every time
Why do we come here to abandoned places
Nothing here but dry earth but we keep coming”
The single is out on Nettwerk Music Group.
Pitou – “Devote” (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
RIYL: Agnes Obel, Jenny Hval, Charlotte Spiral
Last year, Dutch singer-songwriter and enchantress Pitou Nicolaes – or just Pitou – teased that her debut album was coming in the new year. Songs like “Big Tear” and “Dancer” offered a hint of the enrapturing theater to come. Last week, she confirmed that her first LP is arriving in the spring, and included in the announcement was the unveiling of “Devote”.
Nicolaes’ newest single demonstrates her spellbinding power and how she soon could join Agnes Obel and Jenny Hval as musical innovators. Like these two legendary artists, “Devote” feels like a never-ending dream, which commences with the Dutch artist’s sublime vocal being looped and layered in gorgeous harmonies. But then the main vocal breaks away, and Pitou delivers a hypnotic spell. Patiently, percussion, guitar, a very light trumpet, and subtle piano hum underneath, providing the uneasy but beautiful foundation for Nicolaes’ narration. She shares how her devotion to a person, a faith, or an entity could simultaneously tear one apart while making them feel whole.
“In the end I’ll see
that that part is still the best of me
to walk away
when I know
that in the end
that is closer to thee
Songs of Love
and Songs of Sadness
same twelve tones and
me who has a choice
with what to fill this void
Nighttime – “The Way” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Widowspeak, Holy Motors, The Velvet Underground & Nico
Eva Louise Goodman is one of the most overlooked artists of the past decade. This is not hyperbole because nearly eight years have passed since she released, under the moniker Nighttime, her debut LP, L’Age D’Or. She, however, could finally receive widespread this year when her new album, Keeper is the Heart, is released. From it, she’s already shared the spellbinding “Curtain is Closing” and the incredibly moving “When the Wind is Blowing”. Both songs could be considered masterpieces, and Goodman completes this trifecta of incomparable brilliance with “The Way”.
Nighttime’s newest single is stunning late-’60s and early-’70s psych-folk that could have been written at Woodstock or on a veranda in Laurel Canyon. Her deep, ghostly vocal hovers effortlessly through the pristine guitar and the stuttering rhythms, and the combination is enchanting and haunting. We, the listener, become completely wrapped inside this mystical place. Goodman’s tale accentuates this feeling, as she narrates a tale of two people going in the same direction but towards separate destinations.
“Burning the way
The rooms you live in new always
Roads take shape
As those things which guide their way
Are hid by night or light by day
–obscure the depths, reveal the shapes
Of the path (which you)
Yael S. Copeland – “many” (Tel Aviv, Israel)
RIYL: Adrianne Lenker, Jessica Pratt, Twain
For those who follow the Israeli music scene, they may recognize Yael S. Copeland‘s name, as she fronts indie band Borito. While that outfit makes nostalgic dream-pop, Copeland as the solo artist is focused on indie- and dream-folk. Saying she is Israel’s answer to Adrianne Lenker would not be far-fetched because like the Big Thief front-person, Copeland is a multi-faceted and adaptable artist and songwriter. She displays her softer and more vulnerable side with “many”.
The lo-fi, 8-track recording gives the song a raw intimacy, where we can envision ourselves sitting on the carpeted living room and intently watching and listening to the performer. We watch as Copeland and a second guitarist perform an embracing melody while layered harmonies support her tranquil voice. While we get lost in this melancholic spell, Copeland’s words are introspective. She shares how each day she is surrounded by different personalities, which end up overwhelming her.
“Late Nights, Early Mornings
Many hands, many legs are showing
Can’t hear my thoughts with their laughter
I want to stay, I want to stay
Cause I don’t need to be with me
When we are so many
And they cover it all…
They cover it all.”
The track, however, ends with an epiphany. It is not heard in the words but in the music, as the melody opens up. The ending is stunning, making us realize that one song can help drown out all the noise within us.
“many” is taken from Copeland’s forthcoming debut album, Mellow Submarine. It is expected this spring via Ghost Mountain Records.
The Heavy – “Hurricane Coming” (Bath, England)
RIYL: The Arcs, The Black Keys, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Sweats
The Heavy always will be associated with “How You Like Me Now”, their 2010 hit that went viral thanks to widespread radio play and being featured on several TV shows. While the UK neo-soul band could have signed with a major label, they opted to stay independent, which still yielded them success with song placements in video games and more television series. Five albums into their 16-year career, Kelvin Swaby (vocals), Daniel Taylor (guitar), Spencer Page (bass), and Chris Ellul (drums) continue to create anthemic tunes that incite dancing, jumping, and shouting. And “Hurricane Coming” is no different.
Supported as usual by a rip-roaring horn section and backing singers, The Heavy turn confrontation with Mother Nature into a jubilant event. A sturdy drum line kicks off the track before the horns arise, and a steady groove emerges. Swaby then sets the scene for the approaching natural disaster.
“Hold on, hold on
There’s a problem with the broadcast
Ain’t the sun, ain’t the happy
Ain’t the bliss that I was forecast
Everybody in the know
Say you’re running round with trouble
Bringing heat, raising hell
Acting up and busting bubbles”
As the song builds to its raucous climax, the quartet face the hurricane head on because this is Swaby’s first experience with such a storm after moving to the US. All he can do is stare at its speed and force, and, obviously, he survived to share his story.
Pre-orders and pre-saves for The Heavy’s new album, Amen, ahead of its April 21st release are available here.
CHIVVY – “Reign” (Gothenberg, Sweden)
RIYL: I Break Horses, Beach House, Massive Attack
After a decade where scandi-gaze was defined with a post-punk flair, the re-emergence of I Break Horses and the arrival of CHIVVY brought the genre back to its origins – the cosmos that is. Like any adventure into undiscovered places, their music is defined by mystery, uncertainty, awe, and wonder. And it can be breathtaking, where with each lyric and sweeping guitar riff, we are left in speechless. With that, say what you need to now because for the next five minutes you will not utter a word while “Reign” is played.
A mournful, reflective tone kicks off the track as a steady drum line quietly cuts through the electronic pulses and faint, gauzy guitar. As Ester Hilmersson’s voice emerges, the gauziness slightly intensifies, and the song takes on a dream-like state. Slowly, the song builds, becoming more cosmic and enlightening. Hilmersson’s voice rises, too, as she defiantly confronts “the ruler of my life”. The ruler could be anyone or anything – an ex-partner, an experience that haunts her mind, a mental illness, death, or time. Regardless of who or what it may, she will not allow it to reign over her. She instead will determine her own faith, and CHIVVY’s faith could be known as one of Sweden’s great shoegaze bands by the time their career comes to an end.
CHIVVY are Ester Hilmersson and Alexandra Tortosa. The lyrics were written by former band member, Amorina Ahlsell, who departed last year. Find the single on Swedish indie label, Novoton.
Nanna – “Godzilla” (Reykjavík, Iceland)
RIYL: Jenn Wasner, Wye Oak, Suki Waterhouse
A little more than a decade ago, Of Monsters and Men catapulted to global fame with their upbeat and catchy Americana. Their songs were played on their radio, they sold out stadiums across the world, and the Icelandic band helped usher in a new take on a classic genre. The quintet, however, have been quiet for the last four years, and they have not given any signals that they’re working on new material. Frontwoman Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, however, has not remained dormant. On Friday, she announced her solo project, which is simply just Nanna. With the news came her debut single, which is so unlike Of Monsters and Men. And it’s wonderful.
A lush, lingering guitar invites us into Hilmarsdóttir’s world – a world that is a distant universe away from the “hey” chants that characterized her band’s music. Instead, “Godzilla” is sincere, vulnerable, and delicate, which allows us to hear Hilmarsdóttir’s voice in a much different way. Her vocal is soft, brittle, and incredibly stunning. This space, too, enables Hilmarsdóttir to share how she is constantly trying to unravel the constant feeling of being alone and figuring how to navigate relationships that are changing by the day.
“Rising out from water like the sun
Do you get bored of repeating yourself?
New beginning usually means an end
And someone has to play the villain
Ooh, this puppeteering
Ooh, doesn’t make any sense
Ooh, and we could be sprouting right about now
But we’re not, but you are not dirt”
The single is out on Republic Records. Here’s hoping her debut album is coming and will feature more of this.
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