Who | Scott Matthews
When | Sunday, November 8
Where | Grüner Salon, Berlin
With such a common name and a somewhat understated approach to releasing music, Scott Matthews seems to be as fleeting as the subject of his beloved 2006 single ‘Elusive’. But don’t be thrown off by all of those other Scott Matthews musicians vying for your attention: this UK singer-songwriter is the real deal. His debut nearly 10 years ago was unanimously praised for its organic, rootsy beauty, even making a fan out of rock legend Robert Plant (who would later appear as a guest on his next album). Matthews’s sound is mash-up of blues and folk styles, with small hints of psych popping up here and there. However, his albums have since become increasingly stripped-down, showcasing all the more his rich, soulful voice and his masterful guitar playing. Matthews’s latest release Home (Part 1) is a testament to this pattern. As the title suggests, he recorded the entire LP at his home studio, a decision that clearly lent a sense of hushed intimacy and warmth to the songs. It just goes to show that there’s no need for all of the bells & whistles to make poignant, enchanting music.
For fans of: Rufus Wainwright, Oren Lavie, Landon Pigg
Who | The Phoenix Foundation
When | Tuesday, November 10
Where | Kantine am Berghain, Berlin
Good music is steadily surpassing Hobbits as New Zealand’s biggest export, and Wellington-based indie rock band The Phoenix Foundation are at the helm. Hardly newcomers to the scene, the core members have been playing together for over 20 years, giving them plenty of time to experiment, but also to really hone their sound. Their sixth album Give Up Your Dreams, released this past August, is the band’s most cohesive to date. The electronic aspects of their music are front-and-center, accompanied by psychedelic vocals awash in echoey reverb. With GUYD, they’ve created a concept album of sorts: the overall cosmic sound, heady lyrical content, and surrealist Dali-inspired cover art all tie into a fascination and grappling with the otherworldly. The title track serves as a millennial reality check manifesto, ending with a distorted voiceover claiming, “Don’t let anyone say the world is your oyster/The world is not an oyster/The world is a cold, dark, planet, floating through an infinite space on a ceaseless journey to its own destruction.” But don’t get the false impression that they take themselves too seriously: their musical chops are served with a healthy dose of humor. Case in point: the track ‘Celestial Bodies’ features over-the-top 90s EDM cheese that can only serve as parody, and the deluxe set of the newest album included a pillowcase on which to “rest your weary head” and “a super soft printed sleep mask to block out the world and doze while listening to this wonderful album of Technicolour Pop.” In typical fashion, these Kiwis are unapologetically taking the piss. Yet it’s this very dichotomy of gravitas and jokiness that makes The Phoenix Foundation as interesting and entertaining as they are.
For fans of: The War on Drugs