Breaking down Matador at 21’s Sunday lineup

Times New Viking
Spencer Patterson and Annie Zaleski

Who: A Philadelphia-based guitarist and songwriter.

Sounds like: Noisy and turbulent one minute, dreamy and psychedelic the next—like Red House Painters tossing and turning with insomnia.

On Matador: 2009’s Childish Prodigy LP and 2010’s solemn Square Shells EP.

Spin it: “Freak Train”


Who: Lo-fi warriors carrying on Columbus, Ohio’s shambling indie-rock tradition.

Sounds like: A rickety garage full of carnival keyboards and off-kilter vocals, all beamed through a broken stereo speaker.

On Matador: Albums three and four, 2008’s Rip It Off and last year’s Born Again Revisited.

Spin it: “Move to California”


Who: New Zealand trio—brothers David (guitar/vocals) and Hamish (drums) Kilgour and bassist Robert Scott—highly respected for its jangly, DIY pop contributions to the early ’80s Dunedin Sound.

Why they matter: Pavement, Guided By Voices and Yo La Tengo are fans, to name just three.

On Matador: The European issue of 2001’s Getaway. So, why are they playing Matadorfest? Hey, we’re with YLT’s Ira Kaplan, who told us, “I don’t ever look gift shows by The Clean in the mouth.”

Spin it: “Billy Two”


Who: The stripped-down project of ex-Okkervil River member (and noted ornithologist) Jonathan Meiburg.

Sounds like: The little brother of the airy, well-manicured prog-pop of Talk Talk’s later albums and Peter Gabriel’s catalog.

On Matador: The past two albums, 2008’s Rook and this year’s The Golden Archipelago.

Spin it: “Black Eyes”


Who: East Coast-based agitators.

Why they matter: Leo’s strident liberal politics—not to mention the meaty mod-punk songs he and the Pharmacists unleash—cut through modern rock ’n’ roll’s apathy and ennui.

On Matador: Just this year’s punk-bruised power-pop collection, The Brutalist Bricks.

Spin it: “Ativan Eyes”


Who: A Canadian supergroup of sorts, featuring Carl (aka A.C.) Newman, Neko Case and Destroyer’s Dan Bejar, specializing in hook-stuffed pop. Though Case and Bejar don’t always perform live with the band, Newman has assured us both will be onstage for Matador at 21.

Why they matter: Whether you like roller skating or vert skateboarding, the New Pornos can provide the catchy, cross-generational soundtrack.

On Matador: Seven years, four albums, including May’s Together.

Spin it: “The Laws Have Changed”


Who: An LA-via-Chicago singer-songwriter.

Why she matters: Exile in Guyville, her female-centric 1993 dissection of dating and relating, is a brutal dose of romantic reality. (To legions of women, it’s also an empowering, inspiring collection.) As a musician, Phair stubbornly—and admirably—fights to do things her way, even if it brings commercial failure or draws harsh criticism.

On Matador: Guyville, 1994’s Whip-Smart and 1998’s Whitechocolatespaceegg.

Spin it: “Fuck and Run”


Who: Jersey-based trio—guitarist/singer Ira Kaplan, bassist/singer James McNew and drummer/singer Georgia Hubley—specializing in, well, not specializing. From blithe pop numbers to writhing guitar freakouts to an endless supply of cover songs, a YLT show is nothing if not heterogeneous.

Why they matter: Few bands can boast a 25-year catalog as consistently interesting and entertaining.

On Matador: Debuting on the label with 1993’s Painful, Yo La Tengo stands as the Matador act with the longest active tenure. The Hobokeners have had the “Ole” imprint on their past seven albums (including 1997’s seminal I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One), along with a slew of EPs, singles and rarities collections.

Spin it: “We’re an American Band”


Who: Über-prolific singer-songwriter Robert Pollard and his merry men from Dayton, Ohio. Back on tour after a six-year hiatus, with this “classic” lineup—Pollard, guitarists Mitch Mitchell and Tobin Sprout, bassist Greg Demos and drummer Kevin Fennell—reunited for the first time since 1996. The Club Is Reopen.

Why they matter: Famously lo-fi recording aesthetic and infinite beer capacity notwithstanding, GBV’s most lasting achievement remains its songbook, a bottomless barrage of addicting genius-pop.

On Matador: After distributing 1994 classic Bee Thousand, Matador released three albums before GBV left briefly in the late ’90s. The band returned in 2002, closing out its run with three more Matador full-lengths.

Spin it: “I Am a Scientist”


Previous Discussion:

  • At this point, the only constant from album to album is the band’s dedication to ambition.

  • Bassist Nate Brenner partners with leader Merrill Garbus for an approachable and dancey record.

  • “This record has very little insecurity. It was a blast to make, and it’s really fun to play live.”

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