The songs on The Matinee ’23 v. 044 are made to create new memories and to reflect on past ones. These nine stellar tracks will sweep you off your feet, take control of your body, and make you pause to spend time with the people you care most about. 

If you’re looking for more music for the upcoming weekend, may we make our usual recommendation of listening to The Songs of March and April 2023 playlist on Spotify and SoundCloud. It’s pushing 12 hours, but it’s worth the investment. 

Today’s featured numbers are listed below. Click on the track to go directly to it or read the all nine. 

Bleach Lab – “Counting Empties” (London via Buckinghamshire, England)

RIYL: dream-pop that makes you pause, listen, and contemplate

After releasing three fantastic EPs – If You Only Feel It OnceNothing Feels Real, and A Calm Sense of Surrounding – and signing with Nettwerk Music Group last year, it was only a matter of time before Jenna Kyle (vocals), Josh Longman (bass), Frank Wates (guitar), and Kieran Weston (drums) announced Bleach Lab‘s debut album. The news arrived on Wednesday, when the London-based quartet shared that A Lost in a Rush of Emptiness will be released on September 22nd. Of course, the announcement included a brand new single.

For all the songs Bleach Lab have released and wowed us in less than four years, including last month’s “Indigo”, they may have released their pièce de résistance in “Counting Empties”. This song is absolutely gorgeous. It is the most restrained of the band’s 15-or-so songs, but the approach allows the emotion, particularly from Kyle’s soft vocal and the weeping guitar, to clearly be heard. For every painful word to be felt. “I’ll keep counting empties until you love me / There’s emptiness inside of me,” Kyle sings at a level barely louder than a whisper. When she utters those words, we want to reach through headphones and fill the space. That’s the sign of a band who are not merely hitting their stride but becoming one of the industry’s best.

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The National – “Your Mind Is Not Your Friend” (feat. Phoebe Bridgers) (Brooklyn via Cincinnati, USA)

RIYL: The National and Phoebe Bridgers

There are few bands with such a consistent, high-quality output over the last 20 years on the level of The National. Even among albums like Boxer and Sleep Well Beast, The First Two Pages of Frankenstein (April 28th on 4AD) is shaping up to be among one of their best. With each single, “Tropic Morning News”“New Order T-Shirt”, and “Eucalyptus” , Matt Berninger (vocals), Aaron Dessner (guitar, piano, keyboards), Bryce Dessner (guitar, piano, keyboards), Scott Devendorf (bass), and Bryan Devendorf (drums) continue to create some fantastic s”ad-dad” music. 

On The First Two Pages of Frankenstein, The National are joined by a handful of guests, including frequent collaborators Sufjan Stevens and Taylor Swift as well as two tracks featuring fellow sad-music giant, Phoebe Bridgers. One of those songs is “Your Mind Is Not Your Friend”, and it’s exactly what you’d expect. Beautiful piano keys start things off, joined by Berninger’s distinctive voice. Bridgers contributes only backing vocals, but her voice layered with Berninger’s presents the song’s message of mental health struggles brilliantly. The lush layers and emotional heft listeners one would expect from The National are present, but they are rooted in a bout with depression. Berninger’s words are an important reminder, that in those moments, “Your Mind Is Not Your Friend”.

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Speedy Ortiz – “Scabs” (Philadelphia, USA)

RIYL: great indie-rock bands making a return

We never thought we would see the day that Speedy Ortiz would return. It’s been five years (almost to the day) since they released Twerp Verse, and then Sadie Dupuis (guitar, vocals, synth, toy piano), Audrey Zee Whitesides (bass, backing vocals), Andy Molholt (guitar, synth, backing vocals), and Joey Doubek (drums, percussion) pursued other projects and dealt with everyday life. Then the other day and unexpectedly, they offered the music world a gift with “Scabs” (via Wax Nine Records).

It’s like the quartet never left, as the chemistry that made them one of indie’s biggest rock bands can be heard. The grimy guitars effortlessly stream through the rattling rhythms. It’s a sound fans became familiar with on Major Arcana, and, therefore, the tune has us simultaneously thrashing and dancing. Dupuis’ familiar voice, meanwhile, pierces through the noise. Her words leave nothing to the imagination, as she is as pointed as always. That’s the only approach to take when confronting nihilists.

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Deeper – “Sub” (Chicago, USA)

RIYL: catchy art-punk that will have you mimicking David Byrne

In the midst of this outstanding era of art-rock and art-punk, Deeper tend to get lost in the shuffle. But they shouldn’t be forgotten or overlooked because they’re one of the trailblazers of these great genres. Their sophomore album, Auto-Pain, was a super-charged compilation made to escape the pending apocalypse (and in some ways they predicted what was to come). As Nic Gohl (vocals, guitar), Mike Clawson (guitar), Drew McBride (bass), and Shiraz Bhatti (drums) made their way through the pandemic, they came out of it with a brand new record deal, signing with Sub Pop. Their first single with the influential label is fittingly called “Sub”.

In the press release, the band shared that this tune was in “the trash can” because they didn’t like how it originally sounded, which was much slower and more methodical. Why the Chicago-based quartet would even dial down the tempo is a question for another day, but thankfully they kicked it into overdrive. The end product is one off-kilter yet brilliant and catchy number. It will have you either dancing, gyrating, or doing bizarre movements like David Byrne does on stage. Gohl’s lyrics, meanwhile, capture the weirdness of the past three years, where our society literally became a dog-eats-dog world. 

“Here you come in your
Large company
Sever me for your dogs I won’t bleed
Ever live in the gulf by the sea
All the wine, all the shit for the knife, no?”

Here’s hoping a new album is coming!

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Mandy, Indiana – “Peach Fuzz” (Manchester, England)

RIYL: industrial goth-wave that sears your mind

Mandy, Indiana are one of the most exciting bands around today. They actually might be THE most exciting band around. Whether in their previous life as Gary, Indiana or in their current form, Valentine Caulfield (vocals), Scott Fair (guitar, production), Simon Catling (synth), and Alex Macdougall (drums) deliver mind-warps after mind-warps. “Injury Detail” and “Pinking Shears”, for instance, were surreal yet cathartic industrial gothwave and two of the best songs of the year. Given what they’ve shared so far, their debut album, i’ve seen a way (May 19th on Fire Talk Records) is highly-anticipated in these parts. To amp up our anxiousness, they once again crawl under our skin with “Peach Fuzz”.

Free your mind and allow the quartet take it over. Allow the pulsing beats; the harsh, rave-like electronics and synths; the lightning guitar; and Caulfield’s trance-like vocals control you. Allow them to make you move in ways you never thought possible and momentarily escape this life. Even if you’re not a fan of electronic or industrial music, this tune just might convert you.

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Youth Sector – “Benign Fire in a Small Room” (Brighton, England)

RIYL: slow-building, anthemic, art-rock 

Youth Sector may not be a household name and most probably were only introduced to them within the past three years following the release of Mundanity, but Nick Tompkins (vocal, guitar), Josh Doyle (bass), Bradley Moore (guitar), Steve Ray (drums), and Nick Smith (synth, keys) having been plying their trade for seven years. Talk about flying under the radar, but the five-piece may be on the verge of a massive breakthrough. Their new EP, Quarrels (June 23rd via Dance to the Radio), which includes the awesomely herky-jerky “The Ball”, promises to showcasing the band’s multiple sides. The record’s third single does exactly this – revealing that Youth Sector can delve into thoughtful and melodic art-rock.

“Benign Fire in a Small Room” sounds like the slow-building, anthemic sides of The National and Gang of Youths coming together. While the first half grooves with the vibes of the early ’90s, the second act turns into spinning, shout-out-loud euphoria. The approach is perfect for a tune that encourages people to get out of their comfort zones and break free from the 9-to-5 mundanity. After all, as Steve Buscemi as Garland Greene said in Con Air, “working fifty hours a week in some office for fifty years” is insane.

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LUCKY LO – “Yes to Myself” (Copenhagen, Denmark via Umeå, Sweden)

RIYL: alt-pop anthems that will lift you up

Lucky Lo released one of our favourite albums of 2022, with Supercarry. The project of Lo Ersare (vocals, keys, banjo), as well as band members Asger Nordtorp Pedersen (bass), Mads Nørgaard (guitars), Anja Backmann (backing vocals), and Casper Henning Hansen (drums), created a record that transcended all classification. At times it was sad, other times a celebration of life. There, however, was always one constant: its human moments and inviting relatability.

Lucky Lo’s latest single, “Yes To Myself”, is an upbeat, joyous affair. There is so much sad music out there, and sometimes that’s where great art comes from, including tracks in Lucky Lo’s discography. On “Yes To Myself”, Ersare reminds us of the importance to take care of yourself. There’s so much power in the self, and the ability to find inner peace is an important part of escaping those darker moments. The track’s sound matches the positive attitude: bouncing drums and bass and Ersare’s playful voice. There’s a great section where she just lists all the things we should do to ourselves. It’s almost silly, but it just adds to the fun atmosphere of an already great track.

“Trust yourself
Believe in yourself
Love yourself
Be yourself
Be in yourself
Believe in yourself

I say yes!”

The single is out on Tambourhinoceros

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Gengahr – “In the Moment” (London, England)

RIYL: a chilled tune perfect for the pending summer days

Since bursting on the scene nearly a decade ago and straight out of high school, Gengahr have consistently delivered upbeat, pick-me-up tunes. This includes the recently-released “A Ladder”, which was Felix Bushe, John Victor, Hugh Schulte, and Danny Ward’s first new music in three years. Yesterday, they announced that a new album is coming in the form of Red Sun Titans (June 9th via Liberator Music). 

The LP’s second track is a bit of a change of pace, as the quartet deliver chilled vibes and get a little sultry on “In the Moment”. The psych-pop tone is reminiscent of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s great laid-back track, and like the indie giants Gengahr offer some inspiration. In this case, they remind us to savor the times and days we have with our friends because through the ups and downs they will always be there for us. Plus, our best pals feature in most of our unforgettable memories, and there is still time to create more. Hmm… if you’re creating a photo stream, this track would be the perfect background music.

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Nation of Language – “Weak in Your Light” (Brooklyn, USA)

RIYL: ’80s new wave made for a candlelit room

Through their first two, remarkable albums – 2020’s Introduction, Presence and 2021’s A Way Forward – Nation of Language found multiple ways to make us re-live the ’80s. This also meant moving and dancing like Michael J. Fox in the Back to the Future movies or the brats of The Breakfast Club. So will Aidan Noéll (synth), Ian Devaney (vocal, synth, guitar), and Alex Mackay (bass) again have us breaking a sweat when Strange Disciple is released September 15th via PIAS / Play It Again Sam. The LP’s lead single, “Sole Obsession”, certainly gave off those vibes, but the trio take a completely different tact with “Weak in Your Light”.

This tune is made for a quiet night with one’s soulmate. The new wave approach is minimalist, as the instrumentation is shallow and even ghostly and mysterious. The tempo is significantly slowed to allow the intimacy build between the room’s two occupants. Devaney’s voice is filled with emotion, and he completely reveals his undying love to the one person who has his heart, which is his wife and band mate Noéll. It’s a beautiful song that is done in a way that only Nation of Language could produce. And have us still dance, just slowly in the arms of another.

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