For lovers of great storytelling, the eight songs on The Matinee ’23 v. 024 will delight you. When taken in their totality, they could form the storyline of a Noah Baumbach film (Marriage StoryThe Squid and the Whale). As such, don’t be surprised if memories start flooding your mind and you might even shed a tear or two. 

This mini-playlist is the second part of our February 24th doubleheader. Part 1 can be found here. The 15 featured songs today are included in the 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.

Manchester Orchestra – “Capital Karma” (Atlanta, USA)

RIYL: Phoria, Son Lux, Zola Blood

Manchester Orchestra are not just one of the great indie bands of the 21st Century. They also are adept film composers. While they’ve written songs for movies like Premium Rush and Earth to Echo, the Atlanta-based collective also scored the entirety of Swiss Army Man, which starred Daniel Ratcliffe and Paul Dano. For Andy Hull (vocals, guitar), Robert McDowell (guitar), Andy Prince (bass), and Tim Very’s (drums) next project, they’ve taken a little different route.

On March 10th, Manchester Orchestra will release The Valley of Vision EP on Loma Vista Recordings. Accompanying the mini-album’s release will be an Isaac Deitz-directed film, which used 3D-computed radiography technology and will be shown at SXSW. Given the grandeur of the film, the music also will need to be cinematic, which is an easy thing for MO to do. Well, it sure seems that way given their discography and what they’ve created with “Capital Karma”.

Unlike anything in their discography, “Capital Karma” is a beautifully subdued and engrossing number. The track revolves around three main elements – light keys, soft ambient noise, and Hull’s gentle vocal. Despite the song’s simplicity, it is stunning and powerful in its impact. We feel the pain that grips Hull’s emotive voice and the desire to heel wounds heard in his words. We understand the deflating feeling captured in the song’s breathtaking climax, which leaves us temporarily paralyzed with the realization that some things cannot be fixed. 

“When the message was over
By the house, near the grave

So you wander in, aimless
For a while, and went away

It was Carman departing
Was it wrong, in a way?

I defended your drama
I’m a heart, you’re a brain

All I want to do is wait for you
All I want to do is wait for you
There’s nothing left to say”

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En Attendant Ana – “Wonder” (Paris, France)

RIYL: Broadcast, Melby, Westkust

One of the finest bands of the past 5 to 6 years that few people talk about are En Attendant Ana. The Paris five-piece are dream-pop maestros, who can create bubbly and electrifying, Alvvays-esque tunes or more solemn and immersive ballads. Throughout their career – from their first two LPs, Lost and Found and Julliet, to more recent singles, “Principia” and “Same Old Story” – Margaux Bouchaudon, Camille Fréchou, Maxence Tomasso, Adrien Pollin, and Antoine Vaugelade have proven they are versatile. They showcase their immense talents on “Wonder”.

This track is not the typical dream-pop most are used to hearing. Instead of being light, airy, jangly, and dreamy, it is softly intense and filled with introspection. And instead of a great guitar line driving the track, it is the shallow, throbbing bass line that sets the tone and mood. It provides the platform on which Bouchaudon shares her anxiety and depression. “I’m a good human being / My momma said / And I hope she’s right,” she calmly sings with a hint of uncertainty in her delivery. In this context, we are left planted on the ground, contemplating if we are good human beings. Even as the track escalates and reaches a fantastic, soaring climax, we remain groundd, wondering who we are and what we will become.

Only the best songs can do that.

En Attendant Ana’s new album, Principia, is out today on Trouble in Mind Records. Get it on Bandcamp or stream it at the usual sites. It’s a terrific LP from a terrific band.

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Prima Queen – “Back Row” (Bristol, England/Chicago, USA)

RIYL: Pillow Queens, Middle Kids, Ailbhe Reddy

Louise Macphail and Kristin McFadden only have a few singles to their credit as their project Prima Queen. However, their work over the last two years has made them one of the most exciting new bands, and one we’ve eagerly awaited a debut record from. In 2022, they dropped three singles: the building “Invisible Hand”, the ripping anthem “Eclipse”, and the spoken-word haunter “Butter Knife”. It would be easy to assume these may be part of an upcoming release, but Prima Queen have announced their debut EP, Not The Baby, featuring four completely new songs.

The first of those is “Back Row”. The track kicks off with some guitar, and Macphail and McFadden harmonizing. Then things kick off quite nicely with some woodwinds. They provide the perfect layer for the duo’s pristine vocals. Prima Queen’s lyricism, meanwhile, is among the most relatable and honest out there. On “Back Row”, the duo paint a picture of former lovers who are still important to each other, but have passed the point of no return. Prima Queen say Not The Baby is about relationships, and the changes they bring, and “Back Row” is an important lesson.

“I tried to tell you
How much you meant to me
But you wouldn’t let me in
you said “what the fuck does that even mean?”

We got tangled up and turned around
I got your hopes up then I went back and let you down
Maybe we were just another mistake
But you were one I had to make”

Prima Queen’s debut EP, Not The Baby, will be released May 3rd on Big Indie Records. Pre-order it on Bandcamp or these links.

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Robin Kester – “Blinds” & “Hands” (Rotterdam, Netherlands)

RIYL: Warpaint, Mitski, Samia

Over the last year, few artists have released singles as compelling as Robin Kester. Each single had a quality that led us to declaring her a star-in-the-making, and also had us patiently awaiting any news for a full-length record. Amazingly, Robin Kester surprised by releasing her new album, Honeycomb Shades, today, and it includes the breathtaking “Leave Now”, the cinematic intimacy of “Cat 13”, the lush art-folk of “Celeste”, and the upbeat “Infinity Song”

Ahead of releasing the record, Kester shared a pair of tracks, which are the record’s final songs, “Blinds” and “Hands”. Being the penultimate song on the record, “Blinds” has an important role: setting up the LP for one last jaw-dropping moment, and it does this perfectly. A driving combination of bass and drums move the momentum forward. Kester’s voice is spellbinding throughout – from the moments where it’s perfectly woven into itself, or to the ethereal moments where it’s paired with synth. Then the track erupts with a guitar solo that ties it all together.

Coming down from the guitar solo that completed the previous track, “Hands” makes an instant impact. It starts with some low-key strummed guitar chords merged with Kester’s whispery voice. There’s a haunting layer of synth to accompany the equally haunting harmonies, which join later. Eventually, it all comes to a stop and a deep synth cuts through the silence. It’s a huge change in approach for a relatively quiet track, but Kester’s ability to leverage the tones makes for an incredible ending to the track and the album as a whole.

Honeycomb Shades is out now on At Ease. Get it at Bandcamp.

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cruush – “Stick In The Mud” (Manchester, England)

RIYL: Secret Shame, Just Mustard, Slow Pulp

Last August, a little band from Manchester raised the hairs on the back of our necks with “False Start”. It was a memorable introduction to the sizzling shoegaze of cruush. What separates Amber Warren (vocal, guitar), Arthur Boyd (guitar), Ru Cowl (bass), and Fotis Kalantzis (drums) from other groups is that they’re not trying to launch us beyond the stratosphere. On the contrary, they take us to the Underworld with their Gothic- and post-punk-laced gauziness. So prepare to dive deep into the bellies of the planet with “Stick In The Mud”.

Stark, gritty, and even unnerving, Warren’s shallow voice sinks within the blistering propulsion, which is formed by the glistening guitars and the plodding rhythms. This is the sound of early ’90s Manchester and the gloomy angst that descended upon the city’s music scene. Despite the dark tone and the feverish intensity, this place is captivating. This place is where our deepest desires and frustrations exist. For Warren, she describes how a former mate has struck her where it hurts the most but she gets the final word.

“Friendship now expired
Who put you up to this?
False words follow wine
I’m sick and tired of it

I’m feeling kinda small
And now
You wanna see me fall”

We doubt, however, that cruush will fall any time soon. On the contrary, they are a band on the rise and hopefully a meteoric one. 

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Pet Snake – “Coffee” (Liverpool, England)

RIYL: Sharon Van Etten, BATTS, Liza Anne

Evelyn Halls opened our eyes just before Christmas with “Lotus”. Even with only three tracks to her project Pet Snake‘s credit, Halls is someone to to closely pay attention to. “Smile or Die” was a slow-build that could be compared to some of the best songwriters out there today. “Jacket” showed a poppier side for Halls. However, her fourth single, “Coffee” may be her most powerful yet.

Like many great slow builds, “Coffee” starts out fairly simple with a guitar and Halls’ vocals. Her lyrics are front and center in those early moments, calling out a former lover. Then the song swells brilliantly, Halls’ voice powers over guitar and some heavy-handed drumming. The track then takes on some more indie-folk tones as Halls continues to tell her story. It ebbs and flows with each movement becoming bigger and heavier. By the end, Halls finds some peace.

“You hunt for the weakened
Push them in at the deep end
And watch them drown
Are you comfortably sleeping?
I hope you wake yourself weeping
From time to time

You may think you were wise to be Lord than to be a victim
But I’m fine, I’m alive, I’m in love
Whilst you’re alone
In your kitchen

Drinking coffee for one”

The single is out on Dance to the Radio.

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The National – “New Order T-Shirt” (Brooklyn via Cincinnati, USA)

RIYL: The National by the fireside

The National have long cemented their space as one of the greatest bands today. From their earlier, rough-around-the-edges approach to their dramatic and cinematic recent releases, they’ve proven they can truly do anything they set out to do. Earlier this year, they shared a new single, “Tropic Morning News”, and with it the oncoming arrival of their upcoming record, The First Two Pages of Frankenstein. They also announced the record would feature guest appearances from Sufjan Stevens, Phoebe Bridgers, and Taylor Swift.

The second single from the record is “New Order T-Shirt”. Guitarist Aaron Dessner says the song is reminiscent of the older records, but with a maturity of the newer ones. The song does adopt a nostalgic tone, with crystalline, finger-picked acoustic guitar pairing with Matt Berninger’s distinctive voice immediately. Electronic drums provide a contemporary The National vibe. Berninger’s voice is occasionally joined by some understated harmonies that add even more to the reflective quality of the track. There’s some heavy guitar sprinkled in the background, too. The National are just masters of layering instruments in ways that feel atypical, but when the final package all comes together it’s undeniable. It’s no exception here, as a guitar that would have cut through quieter moments is just background static, adding immense depth to an already deep sound.

And lyrically, Berninger is at his best, recalling times with old friends.

“I keep what I can of you
Split second glimpses and snapshots and sounds
You in my New Order t-shirt
Holding a cat and a glass of beer
I flicker through
I carry them with me like drugs in a pocket
You in a Kentucky aquarium
Talking to a shark in a corner”

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. They have also partnered with New Order to release their own version of their Substance t-shirt, that can be picked up in their official store

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