Ranging from the ethereal to the ass-kicking, there’s plenty to dig among The Matinee ’23 v. 013 and its ten incredible tracks. It’s a perfect set of songs to kick off a weekend, no matter your plans.
Roller Derby – “Always on My Mind” (Hamburg, Germany)
RIYL: Alvvays, Makthaverskan, Camera Obscura
Roller Derby may not be as popular as David Hasselhoff within their homeland, but that day is coming. In a short two years, Philine Meyer (vocals, keys), Manuel Romero Soria (guitar), and Max Nielsen (bass) have grown a sizable following, and they’ve done it largely as a DIY band. As such, it’s easy to root for these underdogs, who time and time again blow us away with their retro dream-pop. The trio wow us one more time with “Always on My Mind”.
The song sounds like it could have been taken right from FM radio’s glory days of the ’90s when bands like The Cranberries, The Sundays, and The Cardigans filled the airwaves. A jangly guitar, sparkling keys, and a steady yet energetic rhythm section remind us of the days when our biggest worries were whether our crush felt the same way as we did. Meyer sings about a similar situation, wondering whether she will meet up with the person who saved her. While she and us contemplate what was and what could be, we also jubilantly dance at the possibility. We bust a move to this perfect song for the weekend.
The single is out on Practise Music. We’re still patiently waiting for the trio’s debut album, which hopefully will be coming this year or next.
Tennis – “Forbidden Doors” (Denver, USA)
RIYL: Helena Deland, TOPS, Yumi Zouma
Over the last decade, we’ve described Tennis in a lot of different ways. Even with their vintage sounds, Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore continue to add a little surprise to each new single. It was obvious from the ’70s-tinged “One Night with the Valet” and the magical “Let’s Make a Mistake Tonight”, both which are taken from their upcoming record, POLLEN. The latest entry to the LP is another surprise: the spellbinding “Forbidden Doors”.
From its opening moments, “Forbidden Doors” is striking. Piano chords and lush synth create a perfect canvas for Moore’s dreamy voice. It is then joined by a fantastic bass groove and a driving drumbeat. Moore’s voice shifts to a more powerful tone, and some hypnotic synth leads join. Add in a great guitar solo, a wonderful breakdown, and plenty of other treats, there’s so much to enjoy. It’s a perfect example of that familiar and welcoming yet ever-shifting sound the duo have crafted. Lyrically, it’s another heavy hitter with Moore looking into the rear-view mirror:
“I can’t get back everything I lost
You know I can’t begin to count the cost
The sun’s coming out but it’s raining soon
I got nine lives that I’m running through
I can’t get back everything I had
Like every question that I’ve asked
The sun’s coming up but the rain comes fast
I’d turn to salt if I looked back”
Shana Cleveland – “A Ghost” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Cross Record, Ethel Cain, Indigo Sparke
When Shana Cleveland released “Faces in the Firelight” three weeks ago, she crafted a song that took a small moment – waiting for the arrival of her child – and turned it into something monumental. The days of waiting were the calm before the storm, except the calm was the main event. This ability to expand even the most subtle occurrence into something extraordinary is a gift that only a few master. And the La Luz front-person is a master of her craft, and she delivers another gem in “A Ghost”.
Part dream-folk, part Gothic mythology, “A Ghost” is mesmerizing. It is hauntingly gorgeous. Patiently a recorder plays in the background, giving the track its ghostly quality. An acoustic guitar and dulcimer, meanwhile, strum alongside feathery percussion in the foreground. We don’t know if we should stare straight into the gripping soundscape or sway alongside to the melody. Regardless if we’re stationary or moving, Cleveland has us under her spell. We listen and watch this ghost, who tells us that she has never left our side and will forever be lying next to us, whether we like it or not.
“You may have known me before
In a dream when you washed up the shore
And all you could figure to do
Was start anew
I am a ghost and I’m trying
To show you what I do
Can I come through?”
Death Valley Girls – “Magic Powers” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Le Butcherettes, L.A. Witch, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
After Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals, guitar), Larry Schemel (guitar), Sammy Westervelt (bass), and Rikki Styxx (drums) surprised with the gospel- and ’50s pop-infused “Sunday”, fans of Death Valley Girls knew that it would not be long before the quartet returned to their rollicking, trippy ways. The band, after all, were born to get people in a frenzy. They were born to keep psych-garage-rock alive and relevant. So get the towel ready because you just might find yourself sweating to the group’s newest single from their forthcoming LP, Islands in the Sky.
Forget a wand, cloak, or staff, Death Valley Girls reveal their “Magic Powers” with their usual arsenal of reverb guitars and pounding rhythms. On this tune, the outfit add some keys to give the track a bit of light, but not enough to turn it into a new wave nor synth-pop number. It still is very much of a rock tune, but one that will have you strutting, bouncing, and, of course, singing along with Bloomgarden during the infectious chorus. The song, as usual, concerns empowerment, where within all of us we have unique gifts. Not everyone sees it, but there are others who know how special we are. As special as Death Valley Girls.
King Isis – “in my ways” (Oakland, USA)
RIYL: Nilüfer Yanya + Connie Constance + English Teacher
When an artist signs with indie powerhouse label Dirty Hit, whose roster includes Wolf Alice and The 1975, they’ve made it. And King Isis has made it (and no offence to No Matter, their US-based label). The Oakland-based singer-songwriter has gotten to this point thanks to their malleable nature. That is to say they are unpredictable and constantly shifting, crafting everything from R&B, jazz, rock, future-pop, and alt-pop. Now add glimmering grunge-pop to their résumé.
“in my ways” is a multifaceted banger that will spur euphoria, jubilation, courage, and even hope. It also might even induce a few air guitar moments, as King Isis’ gauzy guitar sparkles through the pulsing rhythms in the melodic moments but then blisters the air during the multiple apexes. What makes King Isis a star in the making is their honest and relatable lyricism. On this track, they take a step back to assess their life to date, where mistakes have been made and people have been hurt. But great things, too, have occurred, as the eventual change has yielded a fresh start and new opportunities.
“I made the same mistakes or
Appreciate the change more
I think I found a place for
I made the same mistakes, sure
Appreciate the change more
I think I found a place for”
Mazey Haze – “Kill Me I Got You” (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
RIYL: Tennis, Alvvays, Hazel English
Mazey Haze is on the march towards releasing her new EP, Back to the Start, on April 7th. It’s an EP that we’ve been eagerly awaiting since she released Always Dancing, which left a hell of a first impression. Between the fittingly hazy music and Nadine Appeldoorn’s poignant lyricism, it was impossible to not be drawn in by her charms. She’s released some stellar singles in the lead-up to the new record as well, including the lush “I Feel Like a Child” and the French cinema-soaked single, “The Weight of the Weekend”.
The latest single from Back to the Start, “Kill Me I Got You”, picks things up perfectly. The distinctively hazy synth is prevalent throughout the track, as is a fantastic guitar with a perfect glimmer to its sound. Appeldoorn’s voice perfectly pairs with the stunning melancholy, and it’s even more pronounced on the verses’ backdrop that includes some woodwinds. Lyrically, Appeldoorn tells a relatable story about prioritizing others over herself and losing her own identity in that pursuit.
“Kill me I got you
I fell for the great view
Kill me I got you
I got used to something new
It’s better to be warm
Waiting to be born
I see through it all
Appeldoorn’s new EP, Back to the Start, will be released April 7th, 2023 via LUSTRE.
Black Belt Eagle Scout – “Spaces” (Swinomish, WA USA)
RIYL: Hand Habits, Jay Som, Long Beard
Black Belt Eagle Scout’s 2019 record, At the Party with My Brown Friends, was an instant classic. Katherine Paul’s songwriting hit on so many of the things that make a great artist. Paul’s honesty and ability to capture personal moments made everything on the record feel so powerful. It embraced Paul’s identity as “a radical indigenous queer feminist” and a powerful individual celebrating her culture. Her journey continues, as Paul announced last year that a new album, The Land, The Water, The Sky, is coming (and very soon). From its singles, “Don’t Give Up”, “My Blood Runs Through This Land”, and “Nobody”, it’s shaping up to be another moving experience.
Everything about the LP’s latest single indicates that to be the case. “Spaces” is an absolute stunner from the moment it graces the ear. The guitar tone and Paul’s voice are so perfectly paired. The song only gets better from there with lush strings and some gorgeous harmonies. Beautifully simple drum work keeps things tight and adds to the atmosphere. When Paul repeats, “Give In”, at the midpoint, it’s an incredible moment that sets off the down slope of the track, featuring Paul’s parents singing along with her, including her father’s powerful voice. It all comes to a close with a brilliant guitar solo. Wow!
Girl Ray – “Everybody’s Saying That” (North London, England)
RIYL: CHIC, Cate Le Bon, U.S. Girls
Let’s continue with the nostalgia, but this time we’re heading to the ’70s and the days of polyester suits, sequins shirts, and massive perms and Afros. Yes, we are returning to the era of disco, re-living the extended nights of dancing under the reflecting, glass ball and happily moving in rhythm with friends and strangers alike. Now this isn’t ABBA- nor Bee Gees-style music, but rather Girl Ray channel the sultry tones of CHIC on “Everybody’s Saying That”.
Smooth and sensual, Poppy Hankin (vocals, guitar), Iris McConnell (drums), and Sophie Moss (bass) will leave everyone who listens to the song in a state of hypnosis as well as with a big smile on their face. Moss’ funky bass stars, putting the groove into not just this track but also our step. McConnell’s steady rhythms keep us in line, though, while Hankin’s silky vocal recounts a tale that many many disco outfits sang about – listening to one’s heart in order to find true happiness. Or we can just listen to this standout track and find the same thing.
The single is out on Moshi Moshi.
Opus Kink – “Dust” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: Gogol Bordello, IDLES, Viagra Boys
There’s an incredible amount of energy injected right into each of Opus Kink‘s releases. Last June, Angus Rogers (vocals, guitars), Sam Abbo (bass), Jazz Pope (keys, synth), Jack Banjo Courtney (trumpet), Jed Morgans (alto saxophone), and Fin Abbo (drums) released an unpredictable ride of an EP with ‘Til The Steam Runs Dry. Their sound ranges from the loud and punky to the strange, but what’s consistent is that it’s always an absolute blast.
Their latest single, “Dust”, kicks off just as wildly as you’d expect. An all-out assault of noise kicks things off, and it absolutely rules. Eventually, it gives way for Rogers’ voice to take focus, but it never truly loosens its grip. There are some fantastic guitar moments between verses, adding to the chaos that always feels on the verge of bubbling over. Things get delightfully weird in the second half as they repeat the song’s title as the vocals get more and more intense. Then it explodes into a throwback, jazzy piano number out of nowhere. What a blast!
“Dust” is the first single from Opus Kink’s upcoming EP, My Eyes, Brother!, which is out this May on Nice Swan Records.
HUSSY – “Blew” (London, England)
RIYL: Bnny, Slow Pulp, Jason Molina
In November, Sophie Nicole Ellison a.k.a. HUSSY released the stunning yet snarling grunge-pop gem “Jellybean”. A track with that much power easily became one of our Favorite Songs of 2022. She’s someone we’ve mentioned alongside the likes of Mitski, Sadie Dupuis, and the Crutchfields, and with each release she only justifies those words. She’s truly among the best songwriters out there, and we know more people are going to take notice in 2023.
HUSSY’s latest single, “Blew”, is made up of exactly what makes Ellison’s music great. It’s a dreamy, grungy epic and an incredible ride. Things start off simple with just guitar and Ellison’s vocal. What makes these opening moments great is that Ellison allows the song to simply breathe. Eventually drums and various electric sounds join in, but not too soon, and never dominating the soundscape. The track is allowed to start, stop, soar, and sink. When it comes in for its landing, it’s accompanied by some fantastic, intertwined guitar work. She’s a star that is about to explode very soon.
“Blew” is out now on Rock Hag.
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