Mattiel: “Those Words”
In the highly competitive kingdom of classic “shove-off” anthems — from Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” to Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable” — a new challenger for the throne emerges in Mattiel’s latest single. On this new release, front woman and band namesake Mattiel Brown confidently and coolly severs ties with the song’s subject with the unabashed swagger that comes with finally being done with someone’s B.S.
Brown pulled the band together with high-school chum Jonah Swilley, who plays synth and produced the track. Rounding out the crew are Jordan Manley on drums, Marshall Ruffin on bass and Sean Thompson on guitar. Their first LP came out in September 2017, and then the band got an early boost when Jack White of the White Stripes, a band Brown has said she idolized growing up, asked them to join him on tour in 2018. They’ve played numerous venues across the country and overseas and have fostered an especially ardent fan based in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe.
Speaking of what keeps her and the rest of the band going, Mattiel said in a 2019 interview that, “We are satisfied, we go to sleep and wake up hungry for more. It’s a positive thing to always want more. Most artists I speak to are smart enough to know that the result of their work isn’t going to give them the satisfaction that they get from making it. It’s a broad but pretty important idea.”
Levi Watson: “Azure”
The self-proclaimed “best thing Clayton County ever coughed up” is back with a poolside summer jam about owning one’s strength and not being afraid to proclaim one’s awesomeness. It’s impossible not to nod your head to this. Levi Watson glides masterfully from theme to theme — sharks, the Pharisees, Michael Phelps, Tesla — while working in ancient regal terms like “verily” and “hear ye, hear ye.”
The Atlanta native has been throwing lyrics together since he was about 10 years old and said that being on the quiet and introverted side growing up made his classmates often underestimate the sincerity of his ambitions to be a rapper.
“Most people just laughed. It was that ridicule that made me take it even more seriously,” he said, adding that he was the guy in school “who would run the streets with you all night but still made sure that you turned in that 2,000-word essay.” That versatility and passion for his art promise to fuel even more endeavors.
Jaguar Purrs: “Gentle Man”
Let’s get one thing straight: Big cats like jaguars can’t actually purr, something to do with an inability to vibrate their larynx a certain way. In fact, purring and roaring are mutually exclusive in the feline realm and make one of the primary distinctions between house cats and jaguars. But nonetheless, we bet that if a jaguar COULD purr, it would undoubtedly purr to this lo-fi indie rock number.
Led by Jordan Parker, formerly of the outfits Mara and Vera Vera, Jaguar Purrs gets compared, understandably, to the Strokes a lot. However, this song sounds especially like a chip off of the Weezer’s Pinkerton block. It’s a departure from some of his earlier work that gained attention and momentum, which was dreamy pop like “You Are My Favorite Interruption” from its debut Jaguar Purrs EP.
Lee Moses: “What You Don’t Want Me to Be”
Considered “one of the greatest unknown musicians,” Lee Moses had an all-too-brief but stellar career. In a 2019 documentary about his life, one interviewee describes Lee Moses as what would happen if “Jimi Hendrix, Bobby Womack, Wilson Pickett, B.B. King had a baby,” and that’s not far off the mark.
With a bold vulnerability washing over his plaintive cries, Moses is like a raw nerve in vocal form. And this mournful ballad, our featured vintage track of the week, is a perfect example of all he could do: the exquisite harmonies, complex instrumentals, cascading chorus and interwoven guitar riffs, squeezing every droplet of emotion out of every line.
A Booker T. Washington High School graduate, Moses formed his first band, the Showstoppers, in the late 1950s. For a while it was the Royal Peacock’s house band, and rumor has it that Gladys Knight may have floated his name as a candidate for the Pips.
Moses’ 1971 debut album Time and Place should have made him a giant star. Now considered (by those in the know) a Southern soul classic, it features an impressive range of styles, from psychedelia to mournful ballads to more straightforward rock ‘n’ roll. Sadly, though, it didn’t sell very well. And so, disillusioned with the music industry, Moses packed up, left New York and lived out the rest of his days in Atlanta playing local gigs. He died in 1998 when he was in his 50s.
So why was such a remarkable and brilliant bright light in Atlanta music extinguished so unceremoniously? Was the world simply not ready for what Moses brought to the table? Did he have bad luck? Lack the correct management team? The answer may be all of the above. However, what’s not a question is the abundance of talent and depth still evident in his work, which thankfully can still be accessed by anyone seeking it out.