The Matinee ’23 v. 007 is part 1 of 2 for this January 20th because there are so many great songs to talk about – and we probably missed out on another half-dozen. The first half features a few indie heavyweights and young artists whose stars are immensely bright. Each share tunes intended to help us through difficult times, making us realize our worries, fears, and pain are shared by others.

After listening to this mini-playlist, head on to The Matinee ’23 v. 008, which is part 2 of today’s doubleheader. Afterwards, go to Spotify or SoundCloud to follow the Songs of January & February 2023 playlist to hear all of the songs we’ve shared since the start of the year.

 

The National – “Tropic Morning News” (Cincinnati, USA)

RIYL: sad-bastard music

Matt Berninger seems hardly the type to be at a lost for words, yet he had a case of writer’s block, which partially explains why releases from one of the great indie bands have been few since 2019’s I Am Easy to Find. They did collaborate with Bon Iver in August on the gentle “Weird Goodbyes”, but nothing immediately after. That track, however, did signal what was to come – with so many friends they don’t need to write an album alone. On Wednesday, they announced that their ninth LP, The First Two Pages of Frankenstein, will be released in the spring, and it will feature guest appearances from Sufjan Stevens, Phoebe Bridgers, and Taylor Swift. Before their star pals’ contributions are revealed, The National take center stage first with “Tropic Morning News”.

The arrangement is unquestionably The National – sad-bastard music that makes you want to dance or run to the hills and feel liberated. It also makes you think. So while the Dessner and Devendorf brothers work their musical magic and tantalize with a brooding melancholy at first that gradually becomes euphoric, Berninger describes his battle with writer’s block and how he spent his days, which were doom-scrolling and being inundated with nonsense. From this time, he found inspiration

“Got up to seize the day
With my head in my hands feeling strange
When all my thinking got mangled
And I caught myself talking myself off the ceiling

I was suffering more than I let on
The tropic morning news was on
There’s nothing stopping me now
From saying all the painful parts out loud”

The National are: Matt Berninger (vocals), Aaron Dessner (guitar, piano, keyboards), Bryce Dessner (guitar, piano, keyboards), Scott Devendorf (bass), and Bryan Devendorf (drums).

The First Two Pages of Frankenstein is out April 28th on 4AD. Pre-orders available here and on Bandcamp.

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Arlo Parks – “Weightless” (London, England)

RIYL: smart, sultry alt-R&B from a budding superstar

On a chilly, late November day in 2018, a young artist from the UK warmed our souls. Arlo Parks‘ debut single, “Cola”, was intelligent, stunning, and inviting. It also was powerful and had us wondering if we were standing in the shadow of the next great songwriter. Over the next three years, she released one outstanding single after another and, in the process, won over a legion of fans. Parks also won over critiques when her 2021 debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, was awarded the prestigious Mercury Prize, as the UK’s best LP (a decision with which we wholeheartedly agreed). The other day, the London-based indie star surprised many when she announced her sophomore album, My Soft Machine, was coming in the spring, and its lead single encapsulates Parks’ greatness.

Cool percussion, sparkling beats, and calm synths stream through “Weightless”, and the resulting soundscape provides a brief escape. The approach echoes of a young Neneh Cherry while her songwriting is reminiscent of Lauryn Hill, which is music that is incredibly thoughtful, groovy, and powerful. As she has displayed throughout her young career, Parks reaches out to people who are “crushed under the pressure” and tries to help them out of their predicament. At the same time, she realizes that she can only help them if they help themselves.

“And I usually know my strength
But here I am at ninety degrees bent
A metallic taste at the back of my throat
Watch your deltoid flex as you cough on the phone

And I’ve lost my grit and I’m in my head
You’re so withdrawn and I’m standing there
Keeping wool over my eyes
Keeping wool over my eyes”

We said she’ll be a star, and she is. The next step for Parks is superstardom.

Pre-orders for My Soft Machine ahead of its May 26th release via Transgressive are available at these links.

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Wednesday – “Chosen to Deserve” (Asheville, NC USA)

RIYL: summery folk-rock that will have you cheering for the underdog band

One of the reasons why we included (and honestly hoped) Wednesday on our Most Anticipated Albums was because the Asheville, North Carolina outfit are unpredictable. They can deliver a gritty rocker, as they showed on “Bull Believer” and “Handsome Man”, or dazzle with some dreamy alternative, such as on “Cody’s Only”. There is, however, one constant, which is Karly Hartzman’s impeccable lyricism. She merely does not write songs; she writes stories. With a twangy tone to her voice, she rightfully is compared to another stellar singer-songwriter, Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief. The band, as a whole, has the potential to reach the same heights as the celebrated Brooklyn group, and they showcase their immense potential on “Chosen to Deserve”.

This slow-building epic of an indie folk-rocker is superb. Throughout the track’s 332-second duration, it moves and flows between short, restrained anthemic bursts and a springtime, melodic tone. It’s the perfect track to listen to while enjoying a beverage outside or inside, but wherever you choose be sure to not be moving. Instead, listen to Hartzman’s words weave between the steel guitar and the pitter-pattering of the percussion. She describes moments of her youth where she and others did, as Hartman says, stupid things that almost cost them their lives. Her vignettes are amusing, but after some reflection they are also tragic because a life could have been taken. Her stories are from which we learn.

Wednesday are Karly Hartzman (guitar, vocals), MJ Lenderman (guitar, backing vocals), Xandy Chelmis (lap steel), Margo Schultz (bass), and Alan Miller (drums). Their sophomore album, Rat Saw God, will be released on April 7th via Dead Oceans (who could be the label of the year with the releases they have on tap). Pre-order the LP here or directly on Bandcamp.

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Squirrel Flower – “Your Love” (Boston, USA)

RIYL: a song that simultaneously will break your heart yet have you in a state of euphoria

Last year, Squirrel Flower released the fantastic Planet EP. The EP has staying power, building on what Ella Williams created with her 2021 record Planet (i). Both releases showcased Squirrel Flower’s propensity to create music that’s engrossingly imperfect. There were soaring and intense heights on Planet (i), where the EP was a mostly solo, acoustic affair with a lo-fi quality that was simply haunting. On that EP was a track titled “your love is a disaster”, which has seen new life as a full-band effort on Squirrel Flower’s latest single, “Your Love”.

“Your love is a diamond,” Ella Williams sings on both versions of the track and continues, “It sharpens me so nice / But I was never one for / Sharpness or disguise”. Where originally it was just Williams, the full band adds even more of a punch to those powerful lyrics. Some slightly distorted guitar underlines Williams’ voice, accompanied by a reverb drumline. The track’s choruses feel massive with some expansive folk-rock tones throughout. There’s an incredible build as the song reaches its final moments with a great guitar solo and a wonderful taste of pedal guitar tying it all together. What was already a great track has been given a new life, and it’s among one of Williams’ best.

The song is out on Polyvinyl Records.

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Black Honey – “Up Against It” (Brighton, England)

RIYL: a Brit-pop-rock tune that will have you believe you can beat the odds

Long-time readers and listeners know that Black Honey are one of our all-time favorites. Don’t believe us, just check out all the times we’ve featured Izzy B Phillips (vocals, guitar), Chris Ostler (guitar), Tommy Taylor (bass), and Alex Woodward (drums). While they could easily have signed with a label, they have chosen to remain independent and release music under their own label. This artistic freedom allows them to release clever tunes like “Charles Bronson” or delve deeply down into one’s psyche like on “Heavy”. On “Up Against It”, they open the doors to their home and invite those who need a friend.

While we’ve become accustomed to the quartet’s anthemic and often fiery pop-rock, they deliver a catchy and warm guitar-pop number. The song just makes you smile and feel good about yourself. Sizzling guitars and percolating rhythms create the uplifting atmosphere while Phillips offers plenty of encouraging words to people who have been bullied and beaten. To young people who are still figuring out who they are.

“And school isn’t the be all and end all
And everything you do isn’t probably something that you care for
And it gets easier, I promise
And other kids can be brutal, so don’t get upset

And it’s okay to not know yourself, yet
But in time, I guess, you’ll feel all right
And it’s okay to not feel like everything’s fine
And every time you wanna say this is not enough
But this time, you’re gonna be unrealistic
And expect like someone’s gonna show up except you”

Th song is taken from Black Honey’s third album, A Fistful of Peaches. It will be released March 17th, 2023 on their own Foxfive Records. Pre-orders are available here.

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Deerhoof – “Sit Down, Let Me Tell You a Story” (San Francisco, USA)

RIYL: Deerhoof at their quirky best

For those uninitiated to Deerhoof, how does one even start? In almost 30 years, they haven’t released a record that could truly be considered a proper studio album. Last year, they released the awfully amusing “My Lovely Cat”, inspired by famous internet cat Lil Bub. The band collaborated with Bub’s owner, Mike Bridavsky on the single, and together they have recorded Deerhoof’s first true studio album, Miracle-Level, which is also their first record completely in Satomi Matsuzaki’s native language, Japanese.

With their latest single, “Sit Down, Let Me Tell You a Story”, Deerhoof again share an amusing, weird, off-kilter, yet awesome track. In just 2 minutes, the quartet pack so much in such a short amount of time. Matsuzaki’s voice is almost misleadingly calm in the song’s intro, before it all launches into chaos. John Dietrich and Ed Rodriguez go wild on their guitars while Greg Saunier hits heavily on the drums. Then it just goes into some spacey territory where everything comes together for one beautiful and haunting moment before that chaotic energy of the intro returns. It’s a perfect example of what makes Deerhoof an absolute blast to listen to: unpredictable, high energy and a perfect amount of captivating weirdness. 

Their 19th album, Miracle-Level, is out March 31st via Joyful Noise Recordings. Pre-order it at the label’s store or on Bandcamp.

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Girl Scout – “Weirdo” (Stockholm, Sweden)

RIYL: euphoric indie guitar-pop made for a ’90s coming-of-age film

Both a Hidden Gem and an Artist to Watch explains why we are so bullish on Girl Scout‘s potential, and we made this decision based on two songs. Yep, the rambunctious dreaminess and outstanding storytelling of “Do You Remember Sally Moore?” and the rollicking “All The Time and Everywhere” were enough to convince us that the future belongs to Emma Jansson (guitar, vocals), Evelina Arvidsson Eklind (bass, vocals), Per Lindberg (drums), and Viktor Spasov (guitar). Whether they could experience a meteoric rise like Wet Leg did last year remains to be seen. If they continue to release songs like the aforementioned two and “Weirdo”, they most certainly will become everyone’s favorite band.

The first time you spin this track, just listen. Don’t be distracted by anything and allow the jangly guitars, the thumping rhythms, and Jansson’s saccharine voice smother you. Allow them to take you back to the mid-’90s and the era of great coming-of-age films, where every character is either facing a life-changing decision or trying to figure out who they are. “I am just a woman who doesn’t feel like something real / And I don’t feel like a woman, I’m just a kid / Trying to stay away from everyone else,” Jansson shares about how she continuously worries if she’s being odd around other people and whether people will accept who she is. For us, if Girl Scout are worried about being weird, we say continue to be so you can stand out from the crowd. Plus, who wants to be normal these days?

Girl Scout are signed with Made Records, who will release the band’s debut EP, Real Life Human Garbage. Pre-saves ahead of the February 15th release are available here

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