The Matinee ’23 v. 046, which is part 2 of our doubleheader, features eight more tunes whose themes address renewal, defiance, unity, and debauchery. This mini-playlist is bookend by songs made for the dance floor but achieved through different means, tracks with an old-school sound, and others that bring music to the future.

For Part 1 of today’s music selection, click here. Find all 16 tunes on The Songs of March and April 2023 playlist, which is available on Spotify and SoundCloud.

To go directly to a song, click on the track in the list below:

Jessie Ware – “Begin Again” (London, England)

RIYL: Sister Sledge, Boney M, Evelyn “Champagne” King

Jessie Ware has long solidified her spot as one of the great pop singer-songwriters of her generation. With her recent releases like What’s Your Pleasure, she’s expanded her sound in incredible ways. She’s now growing into a modern version of a disco diva. In February, Ware channeled her inner Donna Summer on “Pearls”, a single from her upcoming record That! Feels Good!

Ware’s latest single “Begin Again” matches the excitement hinted at by the exclamation marks in the album’s title. It is a positive and uplifting tune of renewal and redemption. About a new life and the embrace of the ability to start anew. The track is driven by an incredible rhythm section, including some stellar drumming. Ware’s voice is powerful, and when it’s joined by harmonies and triumphant horns, it’s absolutely undeniable. The positive vibes are immense. Moments like starting over are hard, intense, but on “Begin Again”, Ware helps us dance through the uncertainty.

Ware’s new album, That! Feels Good!, is out April 28th via PMR Records and EMI Records. Pre-order it here.

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Portugal. The Man – “Champ” (feat. Edgar Winter and With War) (Portland, OR via Wasilla, AK USA)

RIYL: Edgar Winter + Danger Mouse + Rage Against the Machine

John Baldwin Gourley, Zach Carothers, Kyle O’Quin, Jason Sechrist, Eric Howk, and Zoe Manville may be signed to a major label (Atlantic Records), but they have never lost their indie roots as Portugal. The Man. They demonstrated this on “Dummy”, which was more than just a groovy and catchy number but also devilish in its effect. The Alaskans delve deeper into realms that others choose to avoid – or are not permitted to enter due to some governments’ laws – on “Champ”.

If the melody sounds familiar, it is. “Champ” is a re-imagination of Edgar Winter‘s 1971 hit single, “Dying to Live”, and the Grammy Award winner’s trademark saxophone bellows throughout, including a sultry and cool solo in the end. There is a surprise, however, as about 2/3s in the track turns into a Rage Against The Machine-like rage, as Portland punk-rockers take over and call on America’s indigenous peoples to rise. This brief interlude fits with the song’s overall theme – that America’s domination was the result of unrivaled violence.

“Turn off the light
Break the key off in the door
Our history of violence
Is the prophet of war (Prophet of war)

Don’t remind me
Of all my mistakes
Don’t remind me
Don’t remind me
Oh, how my heart breaks
Don’t remind me”

PTM’s new album, Chris Black Changed My Life, is out June 23rd.

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Meltt – “Do You Ever Wonder?” (Vancouver, Canada)

RIYL: Tame Impala, MGMT, Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Just last month, Meltt released their new EP, Another Quiet Sunday (via Nettwerk Music Group), which was an expansive and massive output, which is saying something considering the record only had six songs, including the psych-rock anthem, “Another Quiet Day (Keep Moving On)”. We have a feeling that Chris Smith (lead vocals, guitar, bass, keys), Jamie Turner (drums, percussion), James Porter (guitar, keys, vocals), and Ian Winkler (guitar) probably recorded enough material for a full-length record, and over the next few months they’ll release them. Heck, they’re already started with “Do You Ever Wonder?”

“Do You Ever Wonder” is a track about self-empowerment and embracing the freedom that comes with not caring about societal pressures. Its opening moments are full of power with some warm synth, jangly guitar, and hazy vocals. When the song kicks into its groove, it becomes unstoppable. Its killer bass line underscores the spacey synth and verbed-out guitar parts before erupting back into huge moments. Its biggest moments coming in the form of the tune’s ending, and then it all comes crashing down with heavy cymbals, howling backing vocals. Most of all, it leaves us demanding more.

“It’s okay
To wander, be free
Did you ever wonder how we came to be?
It’s okay if they don’t agree
Do you ever wonder what we’re made to be?”

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Dream Wife – “Orbit” (London, England & Reykjavik, Iceland) 

RIYL: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Black Honey, The Kills

Dream Wife didn’t make it as one of the best indie bands in Europe by playing it safe. Rakel Mjöll (lead vocals), Alice Go (guitar, vocals), and Bella Podpadec (bass, vocals) are fearless, as they showed on their take-no-prisoners first two albums – 2018’s Dream Wife and 2020’s So When You Gonna… When this formula works, why change anything? The London-based trio definitely did not take any short cuts with the titanic “Leech” and the torrential “Hot (Don’t Date a Musician)”. On “Orbit”, they turn to sweltering and anthemic pop-rock, but it has, as always, an attitude.

Whereas the first two singles from their forthcoming, third album, Social Lubrication (June 9th via Lucky Number), were ferocious in every aspect, Dream Wife deliver a more positive message. With Go’s guitar anxiously tickling in the background, Mjöll describes the many ways in which we are connected. Maybe we were relatives, lovers, classmates, best friends, or neighbors. But whatever past lives we led, today she encourages us to be friends. She encourages us to unite together because there are enough leeches in this world. And we really don’t need anymore.

June 9th cannot come soon enough.

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 Anna Tivel – “American Novella” (Portland, USA)

RIYL: Adrianne Lenker, The Weather Station, Julien Baker

Last year, Anna Tivel released the absolutely stellar Outsiders (via Mama Bird Recording Co.). Full of captivating songwriting, it was one of our 50 favorite albums of 2022. From a description of the emotions of the moon landing on the world to a botched small town rivalry, Tivel paints pictures both grand and intimate with her words. “American Novella” was recorded at the same time as Outsiders, but found itself on the cutting room floor.

However, “American Novella” was not left off because of a lack of quality. From the otherworldly sounds of the song’s opening, it’s clear this is among Tivel’s most stunning tracks. “American Novella” paints some powerful imagery Tivel paints completely immerses listeners in the stories she tells. It tells the story of Margaret, who is at the end of her life, from the perspective of a young person just getting a foothold in life. Two people in very different stages of their lives, but the common thing in their stories is that there is beauty to be found in life despite all its struggles. With those words paired with gorgeous guitar and just a hint of brushed drums, each word Tivel sings carries so much weight.

“Just across the fence, we’re planting flowers, making love
Our naked bodies full of breath and big ideas and pumping blood
We watch the ambulance come over to get Margaret once a month
From the floor where she has fallen on the white linoleum

Hours stretching out across the yard and down the street
I want a baby but I’m scared to let it grow inside of me
Where there’s been only emptiness and truths I struggle to believe
Oh but emptiness is easy, I know there is more to be”

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The Murlocs – “Undone and Unashamed” (Melbourne, Australia)

RIYL: The Nude Party, Fruit Bats, Futurebirds

Winter may be descending on Australia, but one sure would not know that in listening to The Murlocs‘ newest tunes. Heck, the collective of Ambrose Kenny-Smith (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Cal Shortal (guitar), Cook Craig (bass), Tim Karmouche (keys), and Matt Blach’s (drums) sound like they’re more from Austin, Texas than Melbourne with their rollicking brand of Americana and southern rock. Take “Initiative”, for instance, which would be perfect in every saloon that dotted the desert landscapes of America’s southwest. On the second track from their forthcoming new album, Calm Ya Farm (May 19th on Flightless Records (AUS/NZ) and ATO Records (NA), they create a song that must be played on every road trip.

Smooth, sweltering, and absolutely fantastic, “Undone and Unashamed” will have you kicking up your heels and gliding down Route 66 with a smile on your face. The super-cool sax adds some extra groove to this tune that has plenty of it. Kenny-Smith’s superb songwriting completes the track, as he wittingly addresses debauchery and people’s recklessness. Despite putting themselves at risk, they do the same things over and over again. 

“Scrotum under the microscope, the prima donna snorting too much coke
Slow going with them thoughts, you sure got your point across
Shambolic you rust and corrode, never been one to do as your told
A Jimmy Dean breaking all the laws, rebel without a cause”

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 Durand Jones – “Sadie” (Hillaryville, Louisiana USA)

RIYL: Sam Cooke, Leon Bridges, Curtis Mayfield

In a couple of weeks, Durand Jones‘ debut, solo album, Wait Til I Get Over, will be released on Dead Oceans. Specifically, it will hit stores and airwaves on May 5th. It likely will be one of the most overlooked albums because some ginger-headed singer-songwriter is releasing an LP that day, too. However, when it comes to artistry, songwriting, and content, Jones’ record will win on all accounts. Take “Lord Have Mercy” and “That Feeling”, which were beautiful, powerful, and heart-warming songs. Whereas those first two tunes were largely introspective, he dedicates the third tune to “Sadie”.

Musically, the song possesses the power and grace of legendary soul singer Sam Cooke’s great tunes. It is simultaneously lush and rollicking with the calming “oohs” and the soaring guitar line. The melody would be perfect for story of undying love, but Jones does not go down this familiar path. Instead, the Louisiana native delivers a moving ballad about one woman’s defiance. His booming vocal dances around an act that Ms. Sadie did, although it does not take an investigator to know what happened and why.

“Oh Ms. Sadie
Look what you done
Got your man
Man on the run
Leavin’ and lyin’ it all feels the same
What’s left to do when there’s no one to blame
Oh Sadie, you know what you done”

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Everything But The Girl – “No One Knows We’re Dancing” (Hull, England)

RIYL: Everything But The Girl

In two days, an album that has been 24 years in the making will be released. Of course, we’re speaking about Everything But The Girl‘s Fuse (April 21st via Buzzin’ Fly Records and Virgin Music Group). Although Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt are more known for the dance-pop, they also can deliver hypnotic tunes with great stories. They didn’t become superstars merely by creating catchy music – this is the 1980s and 1990s we’re talking about. The duo showcase all their talents on the last single prior to the LP’s complete unveiling.

“No One Knows We’re Dancing” is EBTG at their most suspenseful and alluring. The beats are methodical, the synths are spine-tingling, and the pace is slowed in order to build the drama. Thorn’s vocal is haunting with its calm yet focused delivery. She introduces us to Fabio, Amy, Peter, and the Croydon boys. They all have different backgrounds and stories, but they all share one thing in common – a desire to escape their real lives. These strangers join others to lose themselves in the music being performed in an off-the-grid venue. Only in this space can they be their true selves. That is the effect that EBTG had on music fans two-and-a-half decades ago, and they’re about to work their magic again on a new generation.

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