Plenty of superlatives will be expressed for the seven songs on The Matinee ’23 v. 023, which is part 1 of 2 for February 24. Sensational, outstanding, tremendous, incredible, breathtaking, epic, haunting, and enchanting are just some of the words you might utter today. Or maybe it’s just OMG! 

More mind-blowing experiences can also be found on Part 2 of the doubleheader as well as on Songs of January & February 2023 playlist, which is available on Spotify or SoundCloud.

To go directly to the song of your choice, click on the link below.

Shana Cleveland – “Walking Through Morning Dew” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Cross Record, Flower Face, Indigo Sparke

One of the early year’s best albums is on our doorstep. Only two more weeks separate us from Shana Cleveland‘s Mazanita, but ask anyone who has had a sneak peek and they’ll tell you how great it is. It’s mysterious, wondrous, and stunning. Previously-released songs, “Faces in the Firelight” and “A Ghost”, were just the tip of the iceberg while “Walking Through Morning Dew” draws us closer to the record’s foundation.

Imagine a world where within a day an arid desert transforms into a vast field of wildflowers, and this track spurs this fantasy. On the one hand, a finger-plucked guitar, a slide guitar, and shallow, rumbling drums represent the arid wasteland at dusk. It’s all mysterious yet unsettlingly calm. On the other hand, streaking strings and a fluttering flute are the life that tries to break through the cracked, fragile lands. While the darkness grows, life finds a way to flourish, which is heard in Cleveland’s elegant and serene vocal as well as her words. What she describes is not fiction, but reality for her as she recently became a mother.

“Little writhing worms hang down
From where the new buds grew
In the yard we’re covered just
From walking through

The birds are crazy and
The wasps are crawling in our rooms
Everything is blindingly in bloom”

Mazanita is out March 10th via Hardly Art Records. Pre-order it here or on Bandcamp. Like we said, it’s one of the – if not THE – best albums of the early year.

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Death Valley Girls – “Islands in the Sky” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Le Butcherettes, L.A. Witch, Jesse Jo Stark

It does not matter what time of year it is. The temperature could be over 100 degree Fahrenheit or minus-40 degrees Celsius, and Death Valley Girls would find a way to help us bear the weather. Or more accurately, Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals, guitar), Larry Schemel (guitar), Sammy Westervelt (bass), and Rikki Styxx (drums) will make us forget what the heck is happening outside the comforts of our homes. All we feel are exhilaration and gratitude for the quartet’s ability to create rambunctious and addictive psych-rock. We feel rejuvenated by their messages, such as on the redeeming  “Sunday”, the empowering “Magic Powers”, and now the uplifting “Islands in the Sky”.

The title track from the band’s new album is prototypical Death Valley Girls with the hand clapping-worthy rhythms, hip-shaking guitar riffs, and shout-out-loud lyrics. This tune was made for get-togethers. It also is made to make us feel good about ourselves. So while we dance and bop to the groovy and radiant melody, we celebrate who we are. From the very beginning, we believe that:

“A diamond ring can be anything if you want it to
Your crystal in the sky can be your dream
Because you know it’s true”

If we needed more encouragement, the band further offer:

“You’re built for the biggest
And the best things in your life
Don’t carry all your pain
Pack it up tight
Let it go at night”

Someone needs to put these lyrics on a poster or turn them into a positive meme. Actually, maybe not because people should just listen to this song and the entire Islands in the Sky album, which is out today (February 24th) via Suicide Squeeze Records. Get it on Bandcamp and these links. It’s an awesome record that will more than put a pep in your step.

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Body Type – “Miss the World” (Sydney, Australia)

RIYL: Cable Ties, Bully, Dentist

Forget great singer-songwriters, jangle-pop and psychedelic-rock bands, and art-rock outfits, Australia is seeking to become the place to discover awesome punk bands. Most know Amyl and the Sniffers and Cable Ties, now folks must add Body Type to this list.

While Sophie McComish (guitar, vocals), Annabel Blackman (guitar, vocals), Georgia Wilkinson-Derums (bass, vocals), and Cecil Coleman (drums) are popular Down Under, they deserve a much wider audience. If this was 1991, their songs and videos likely would be splashed all over MTV. And it could still happen, as the the Sydney group’s debut album, Everything Is Dangerous But Nothing’s Surprising, received some buzz on KEXP. But like Nirvana, Japanese Breakfast, and a host of artists and bands, their sophomore LP could be their breakthrough. Its first single offers a glimpse of Body Type’s massive sound and potential. 

“Miss The World” is high-adrenaline fun. And no, we’re not jumping and dancing to get into shape nor for entertainment value. We’re here to feel one another’s energy while feeding on the fuel that the Sydney outfit deliver through the pounding rhythms, over-driven guitars, and superbly edgy vocals and smart lyrics. They take aim at all the people who came out of the pandemic thinking they were entitled to everything and anything, from the “preteen anarchist” to the leader of the free world who “grabs them by the pussy” and has no regard for other people’s well-being. The world has changed, and the band longs for the days when people cared about one another and B-O-D-Y-T-Y-P-E. And so do we.

The quartet’s sophomore album, Expired Candy, is out June 2nd on Poison City Records. Pre-orders available at the label’s store and on Bandcamp.

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Nanna – “Crybaby” (Reykjavík, Iceland)

RIYL: Maple Glider, Wolf Alice (the balladeer version), Roxette

When Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir – or Nanna – released her solo debut single, “Godzilla”, in January, plenty of jaws dropped all around the world. The song displayed a side not seen from the Of Monsters and Men frontwoman – brittle, vulnerable, and gorgeous. It also made us wonder how long Hilmarsdóttir had waited to reveal this other artistic side. This question may never be answered, but we feel immensely privileged to have heard it. Fortunately, the Icelandic singer-songwriter has much more to unveil, as she announced that her debut album, How to Start a Garden, is around the corner. If we thought “Godzilla” was tremendous, “Crybaby” is equally so.

Hilmarsdóttir’s second single is a beautiful, soaring number. From the very first second to the last, “Crybaby” drips with urgent emotion, which is heard in the steely keys, the light thundering rolls of the percussion, and strikes of the electric guitar. Hilmarsdóttir’s voice, meanwhile, is lush and controlled even during the track’s breathtaking climax. Despite the calm delivery, her voice shines and keeps the listener anchored. It keeps us hooked to her words, which describe the growing distance between two people. We feel her pain and confusion because we, too, have experienced them.

“All the very best of me
as given to the dogs in the street
Well I don’t have a problem
with crawling on fours
but I feel stupid that I’ve tried so hard to burn you up
hen ignite a spark
f I don’t have a problem with being alone”

How to Start a Garden blooms May 5th via Republic Records. Pre-orders available at these links

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Uma – “Tārā” (Barcelona, Spain & London, England)

RIYL: Chinah, Wet, Nilüfer Yanya

Capturing the stillness of solitude might be the most difficult experience to replicate in music because tremendous patience is required. By patience, this means an unhurried approach and keeping the elements at a minimum while allowing them to shine. At the same time, the end product must be utterly captivating. It’s not surprising that the artists who best capture this sensation are independent ones because they have full control of the production process. There aren’t too many chefs trying to spoil the broth; there may be one or two at the most. This must make Uma and her partner Michelin-calibre because “Tārā” is exquisite.

An electric drum beat lightly pounces in the background, providing the platform from which the different instruments jump – swirling synths, the occasional guitar strike, and pounding keys. One thing, however, does not jump off and that is Uma’s soothing yet assertive vocal. She is the sole entity that dares to walk the platform, fearlessly confronting every obstacle. Her lyrics are outstanding, where she tells us to “only trust a liar who can look you in the eye / Your mother always told you, they shoot to kill and watch you die / You’ll never be alone.” And later, she adds, “Only really trust a man, who has been down on his knees, weeping / You can dance in the Underworld / And leave life to the living.”

Now who is Uma? In this song, she could very well be the Grim Reaper. Regardless, the story she’s concocted is brilliant. 

Uma’s new mixtape is expected at the end of the year. It will be released on Slow Dance.

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Wednesday – “Bath County” (Asheville, NC USA)

RIYL: Remember Sports, Ratboys, Porridge Radio

Numerous tastemakers listed Wednesday on their Most Anticipated Albums of 2023 list. We also included the Karly Hartzman-led outfit on our ownl list because, as we mentioned when the shared “Chosen to Deserve”, they are genre-less. No matter the approach– shoegaze, indie folk, folk-rock, pop-rock – they shine, and only a handful of bands can honestly make such a proclamation. Speaking of which, Wednesday make a massive statement as 2023’s best indie-rock band with “Bath County”.

A solemn, grungy vibe opens the track. The stuttering guitar and bass echo of Nirvana and Hole in their heyday, but then the track quickly picks of speed and intensity. The guitars become immersed in reverb while what sounds like a mellotron tickles in the background. It’s an usual addition, yet it offers a great contrast, acting like the angel to the devil that sits on the other shoulder. However, the rage cannot be suppressed, as the song really amps up in the final minute and Hartzman’s voice occasionally becomes a primal scream. These final moments are unforgettable, as is Hartzman’s songwriting.

The song’s first half is littered with Biblical references, which are nods to growing up in a rural, deeply religious part of the USA and how some people feel invincible. However, we are just children “of God”, and Hartzman shares how a tragic accident shakes Bath County, Virginia. Her lyrics are vivid, startling, and awesome (she references Drive-by Truckers!).

Simply sensational. Easily one of the songs of the year so far.

Wednesday includes 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. Pre-order the LP here or directly on Bandcamp.

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Devon Church – “Flash of Lightning in a Clear Blue Sky” (Brooklyn, USA via Winnipeg, Canada)

RIYL: Exitmusic + I Break Horses + Sam Himself

Three words can be used to describe Devon Church‘s songs – “moments of surrender”. This applies to his work with Exitmusic and extends to his solo project. For instance, “Ephemera”, which he released last month, was levitating in its effect. For nearly four minutes, he made us forget our existence. On the second single from his forthcoming album, Strange Strangers, he does something even more extraordinary.

Church delivers a breathtaking, cinematic epic with “Flash of Light in a Clear Blue Sky”, and the ethereal quality causes our souls to become separated from our bodies so that we can see ourselves fall in love and appreciate the moment we gave ourselves to another. Effortlessly, the gorgeous melody expands and transforms into something more cosmic and euphoric. Church’s tenor, meanwhile, resides somewhere between heavenly and otherworldly, singing about what was and what has gone away.

“You turned away
and I saw my true face in the night
such a thin line
between mine and yours

Drifting on the water
like the skies reflection
falling like a curtain
in the ten directions”

Pre-orders for Strange Strangers are available here and Bandcamp ahead of its April 7th release on felte.

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