WARNING: The Matinee ’23 v. 040 is a marathon. Since we either were traveling or stuck at work the last couple of weeks, today’s doubleheader features 36 total songs (18 in each post), and they are from the last 10 days of March. While we could have simply added them to The Songs of March and April playlist on Spotify and SoundCloud (they are on there), we wanted to write about them. The write-ups are short and brief, but hopefully we’ve done them justice.

Part 2 – or The Matinee ’23 v. 041 – can be found here.

As usual, click on the track in the list below to go directly to it.

Lightning Dust – “Run” (Vancouver, Canada)

RIYL: Bonnie Tyler, Laura Branigan, Angel Olsen

In their sixteen-plus years as Lightning Dust, Amber Webber and Joshua Wells have written songs that stark, mesmerizing, and vulnerable. Their music is like a shadow – a silhouette that lingers in different forms and reminding us of our existence. As the duo gear up for the release of their next record, Nostalgia Killer (June 9 via Western Vinyl with pre-orders here), they share the dramatic, ’80s-tinged “Run”.

The LP’s lead single starts relatively laid back with lush strings and some palm muted guitar accompanying Webber’s voice. Those moments are disarmingly hypnotic, setting the listener up for a huge awakening with a surge of synths. Setting us up to feel alive and leaving behind all the things that have kept us down.

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Johanna Samuels – “Ugly On The Inside” (Los Angeles via New York City, USA)

RIYL: Tiny Ruins, Sun June, Jane Weaver

Johanna Samuels has a track record of creating some honest, engaging, and brightly colored music. It was undeniable on her 2021 record, Excelsior! , and, if “Ugly On The Inside” is any indication, her next record Bystander will be another great release from Samuels. The first single and the opening track of the LP sets the tone for the record nicely with some folky guitar, some big moments, and Samuels’ unmistakable honesty. Despite the song’s upbeat nature, the LA-based singer-songwriter’s words reveal the two-faced nature of people, who’ll talk behind other’s back, including their own friends.

Bystander will be out June 23 on Jealous Butcher Records. Josh Kaufman (Bonny Light Horseman) produced the LP, which features Matt Barrick (The Walkmen) on drums. Pre-order the record here.

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Westerman – “Take” (Athens, Greece via London, England)

RIYL: Sam Fender, Anthonie Tonnon, Destroyer

Will Westerman, or simply Westerman, is one of the most underrated songwriters on the planet, and he should be considered at the very least level with Sam Fender, Destoryer, and Andy Shauf. Songs like the great mystery, “CSI: Petralona”, and the powerful, political commentary of “Idol; RE-run”, were microcosms of his talents. On “Take”, the latest single from his forthcoming new LP, An Inbuilt Fault, he delivers another gem, which is inflicted with a seductive, jazz tone. As the bass and drums calmly tap, Westerman’s voice is calm yet emotive, as he explains how “taking breaks the heart of love,” especially when family takes for granted one’s presence.

An Inbuilt Fault is out May 5th via Partisan Records and Play It Again Sam. Pre-orders and pre-saves available here and on Bandcamp.

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Luha – “Maybe” (London, England via Saint-Nazaire, France)

RIYL: Fazerdaze, Sjowgren, Hazel English

A new name in dream-pop has emerged, and it is Luha, the project of French-born, London-based Léa Beneteau. The twentysomething artist has just three songs to her name so far, but number three,  “Maybe”, is a gem. Reminiscent of the upbeat yet jittery haziness of Fazerdaze and Sjowgren, Beneteau’s calm and serene voice floats over the wonderfully gauzy guitar. While the approach replicates the feeling of a cool ocean breeze, Beneteau reveals that a storm is brewing behind. She shares how uncertainty and anxiety reign over her, where she’s constantly watching what she says, questioning every action, and doubting her thoughts. Her words are honest, her music is vibrant, and these two qualities should make her a star.

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Tayls – “Nightmare” (Nashville, USA)

RIYL: Rainbow Kitten Surprise + The Strokes + Rolling Stones

For a few years, Tayls – which is the project fronted by Taylor Cole (lead vocals) and includes Greg Dorris (guitar), Andy Heath (guitar), Atticus Swartwood (drums), Jessey Clark (bass), Jo Cleary (violin), Mo Balsam (keys), and Michael Taylor (keys) – have established themselves as Nashville’s equivalent to Rainbow Kitten Surprise. This merely means that local establishments call them when they want to pack their venues, knowing the band will deliver one great ride. This is evidenced on their newest single, “Nightmare”, which is a boisterous, euphoric, shout-to-the-top-your-lungs anthem. Huge harmonies, sparkling strings, and a completely unrestrained approach to the track’s vocals drive the tune. They also drive us to go run away from the terrors of the night and find the light to a new day.

Tayls’ new EP expected later this year. 

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Cheap Wedding – “Skyscraper” (Berlin, Germany)

RIYL: Lykke Li, Portishead, My Brightest Diamond

When a song can create silence, it is an indication of its artistic power. This is what Ann Weller, who formerly performed as Ann & Bones, has crafted on her new project Cheap Wedding‘s debut single, “Skyscrapers”. Sounding like the dream collaboration of Lykke Li and Portishead, the Berlin-based artist has crafted a gorgeous piece of vulnerable trip-hop. It commences delicately with bubbling electronics and soft keys while Weller’s stunning voice describes how the distance that exists between people. Gradually, the song intensifies as percussion and trumpet emerge, and the finale is breathtaking, representing the power that comes when the two protagonists finally collide.

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Lael Neale – “Faster Than The Medicine” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Cat Power, Laura Marling, Kate Bush

In 2021, Lael Neale was one our Artists to Watch because of her unpredictable nature. Folk, pop, chamber-pop, and a bit of alt-rock, the LA-based singer-songwriter tread multiple soundscapes. With her new album, Star Eaters Delight, out on April 21st via Sub Pop, she appears to once again wade through diverse as evidenced by the urgent bursts heard on “I Am the River” and the choral electricity that rings through “Faster Than The Medicine”

A hollow, dangling guitar line rummages through a chamber-pop arrangement, which includes some chimes and what sounds like a mellotron. The combination creates the sensaation that can best be described as attending church in some Twilight Zone dimension. Neale’s songwriting has a similar effect, where she describes the many things – such as the relief of a bath, the soothing voice of a partner, or the touch of a lover – that affect people in ways that medicine or drugs cannot.

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Siobhán Winifred – “Sober” (London, England)

RIYL: Clairo, Lizzy McAlpine, Holly Humberstone

When Siobhán Winifred released “This House”, we stated she’s going to be a star. Her latest single, “Sober”, has only solidified that stance for us. On the surface, the track feels upbeat with its bouncy guitar parts and Winifred’s floaty voice, and it’s made even more so when the track kicks into gear with its drums and synth. Winifred, however, tells an emotional story about the complex nature of relationships with no expectations. More fantastic stuff from a songwriter about to take over the world.



Talking Flowers – “Storytelling” (Malmö, Sweden)

RIYL: Charlotte Gainbourg, Serge Gainsbourg, Kindsight

Talking Flowers is the haunting musical project of songwriter Astrid Lagerstedt. In 2021, Lagerstedt released a pair of singles, one of them being “Stay in my bed and watch Twin Peaks on dvd“,whose title comes really close to nailing the vibes of the music of Talking Flowers. “Storytelling” continues that trend. Reminiscent of ’60s French-noir, a strange synth kicks things off,with a wobbling drumbeat. Lagerstedt’s voice is a perfect complement to the psych-inspired tune, itself drenched in harmonies and reverb. “Storytelling” is a fantastic modern throwback track that’s a perfect amount of strange and compelling.

The single is out on Rama Lama Records, which once gain hits a home run with Talking Flowers.



Arswain – “Bust” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Aphex Twin, Son Lux, Zola Blood

After Son Lux’s success in composing the music for the Academy Award-winning film, Everything Everywhere All at Once, electronic artists and composers should become high in demand. So who could be the next group or individual that will get their shot? Freddy Avis’ project, Arswain, could be that person. Already composing songs for TV and film, the LA-based artist’s newest single, “Bust”, applies widescreen effects to the stark realms of underground clubs. The result is a hypnotic affair that moves from heavy rhythms to spatial dreaminess. Unlike many songs within this genre, Avis addresses the current environmental crisis in his words, and the tension that builds in the track adds weight to his words. Here’s hoping a director and a producer give Avis his big opportunity.

Arswain’s sophomore album, Lick From The Sink, is expected May 5th.

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Ayleen Valentine – “Epitaph” (Miami, USA)

RIYL: Imogen Heap, Laveda, Chris Isaak

Ayleen Valentine‘s “Epitaph” is fittingly one of the most haunting tracks on this list. Its early moments features just Valentine and her guitar. She sounds like a lonely wanderer traversing through the Mojave Desert at twilight, searching for someone, anyone to meet her out in this vast wasteland. Then a drumbeat kicks in along with synth, and instead of it turning into an upbeat, midnight vibe, which adds to the tension of the earlier moments. It’s a true stunner from the 21-year old artist, who has the talent to follow in the footsteps of prominent stars like Mitski and Imogen Heap.

“Epitaph” and “I can’t stop dreaming of you” can be found on Valentine’s newest single, a/b__2.

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The WAEVE – “Standing Still” (London, England)

RIYL: Jonathan Bree + Princess Chelsea + Unloved

In February, Graham Coxon (Blur) and Rose Elinor Dougall (The Pipettes) released the self-titled debut record for their project The WAEVE. A couple of weeks ago, they released a digital deluxe edition with tracks that didn’t make the final cut, although each are as impressive as the original selection. This is quite the feat given how massive the ten tracks already felt. Of the newest songs, “Standing Still” is the most spellbinding and cinematic. The tune wold have been perfect for an episode of Killing Eve with its ’50s / ’60s film-noir tone, as strings, piano, delicate and precise guitar work, and a sultry sax take us into the early hours of the day. Coxon and Dougall’s voices, meanwhile, describe a rendez-vous between two strangers, whose meeting is not mere chance. It is fate at work, and their lives would be changed forever – but is it for better or worse?

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BLOXX – “Television Promises” (London, England)

RIYL: Black Honey, Circa Waves, Blossoms

We’ve been digging the bombastic sounds of BLOXX for a while now. The last release from Ophelia Booth (vocals, guitar), Taz Sidhu, (lead guitar, backing vocals), Joe Kinton (drums), and Paul Raubišķis (bass) came in the form of Pop Culture Radio in 2021, but two years later they return with another intelligent and catchy single in “Television Promises”.

The London-based quartet’s newest single is as fast paced as it is full of lush sounds. Great guitar leads, immense drumming, and Booth’s powerful vocals all come together wonderfully. It’s a perfect encapsulation of how it’s easy to get addicted to any screen of our choice, from TV to phones, and how it was so easy to get lost in those endless feeds during the pandemic. Booth smartly addresses the unattainable dreams that corporations and people sell as well as the mis- and disinformation that fill the airwaves. No wonder we’ve been digging this band for years.

BLOXX’s upcoming EP, Modern Day, will be released August 11th on Scruff of the Neck.

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Cathedral Bells – “All Under The Sky” (Orlando, USA)

RIYL: Beach Fossils, Day Wave, Wild Nothing

As the May 19th release of Cathedral Bells‘ new album, Everything At Once (via Born Losers Records) inches closer, Matt Messore and his mates are doing their best to remind us why spring is the season for shimmering dream-pop. Previous single, “Clinging to the Ground”, entered into DIIV-like shoegaze, but the quartet return to the seaside with “All Under The Sky”. Jangly guitars, pattering rhythms, and Messore’s breezy vocal create a familiar soundscape that we could revisit time and time again. We simultaneously feel like we are flying through the clear, blue skies high above while joyfully bouncing on the ground under the warm and bright sunshine. Messore, though, explains how he is trying to find his way into these spaces, seeking “a turning point” that takes him “out of the darkness.” Listen closely to the message because Cathedral Bells remind us that others, too, are seeking a way out.

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Nightbus – “Mirrors” (Manchester, England)

RIYL: NewDad, Wombo, Joy Division

We said back in February that Nightbus just might be our favorite new band of 2023 after they released the bone-rattling “Way Past Three”. Out of all the great post-punk bands around today, particularly from the UK, Olive (vocals, guitar), Jake (guitar, production), and Zac (bass, vocals) could be the ones that emerge as the next Joy Division. And it’s not just become they come from Manchester, but songs like “Mirror” contain the awe-inspiring and sinister starkness that made Joy Division legends. The guitars glimmer within the brooding darkness created by the fantastic rhythm section. Olive’s voice has a calm sneer, as if she’s looking down at us in disgust. In actuality, she is looking at the image in the mirror, which has no similarity to the person she knows. “When these mirrors speak my mind it’s a lost direction,” she brilliantly expresses. Such a great band with a tremendous ceiling.

The band’s split single will be released May 5th on So Young Records.

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DRAMA – “Tighten It Up” (Chicago, USA)

RIYL: Gold Fir, SBTRK, Sea Moya

It might be Monday but every day needs music that has us thinking it’s Friday, and DRAMA are the perfect outfit to do the duties. As such, get up, put on the sequins shirts, and prepare to dance to “Tighten it Up”. Funk, disco, and pop converge on producer Na’el Shehade and vocalist/songwriter Via Rosa’s newest single, which recalls the glamorous ’70s. If CBGB and Studio 54 were still around, their patrons would be moving non-stop to this groovy and sensual tune. We can imagine people showcasing their best moves to not just merely impress onlookers but also to one-up the others on the dance floor. Of course, there would be a few people clustered close to the duo, showing that they are worthy of the spotlight. However, the spotlight shines brightly only on DRAMA, who are one of the great disco-pop bands around today.

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Softcult – “Spoiled” (Kitchener, ON Canada)

RIYL: Slow Crush, Teenage Wrist, Soft Blue Shimmer

At the end of March, Softcult released a terrific EP in See You in the Dark (via Easy Life Records). It revealed twin sisters Mercedes (vocals, guitar) and Phoenix Arn-Hor’s (vocals, drums) ability to make shoegaze into something dark and penetrating, dreamy and full of desperation, or vulnerable and honest. The latter description is evidenced on “Spoiled”, on which the siblings use patience and subtlety to dazzling and knee-buckling effect. While the guitar work is usually the star of most shoegaze tunes, the duo’s vocals are the highlight, as they are lush and embracing. The pair open up about their faults and weaknesses, and they wonder why anyone would want to stand next to them. And yet, they have someone that is willing to help them stand up each day and tackle the challenges – externally and internally – that await them.

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Hand Habits – “Something Wrong” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Hand Habits… if pressed, Mitski

Hand Habits‘ next record Sugar the Bruise (June 6th via Fat Possum) was inspired by a songwriting course Meg Duffy was a part of in 2021. For anyone familiar with Duffy’s work, to think of Duffy in a songwriting class is almost silly, but sometimes a push out of the comfort zone and a return to the basics can rejuvenate even the most talented songwriters. Despite its name, “Something Wrong” feels like a completely fresh effort from Hand Habits. Starting out with just heavy drums and Duffy’s voice, eventually a sunny combination of electric and acoustic come in. The sunny moments are disrupted with electric cutting through like a siren. Quiet moments don’t last long, but neither do the loud ones, and that dynamic makes “Something Wrong” an impactful window into Sugar The Bruise. 

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