The Melodic Tonic ’18 May 9th edition is a bit mellow but far from boring. These three pairs of tunes (a set from the USA, UK, and Australia) will help you chill out, de-stress, and defuse your mid-week stress.
The Color Forty Nine – “I Will” (San Diego, USA)
RIYL: Calexico, DeVotchKa, Fernando Viciconte
“Tequila sunset music” is a term I once used to describe banda or cumbia music when my brain wouldn’t (or, in a tequila haze, couldn’t) recall those genre labels. That style of music offers its own special kind of comfort, whether the tunes come from Calexico or emerging talents like San Diego’s The Color Forty Nine. Their debut single “I Will” enchants listeners with undeniable charm and unmistakable south-of-the-border flavor.
This song’s magic lies in its adherence to simple ingredients: honest lyrics, intimate vocals, and minor key strings that accentuate its melancholy tones. The confessional lyrics make you feel like an interloper overhearing a couple exchanging vows. Though you know you shouldn’t eavesdrop the words draw you in, leaving you anxious to hear more:
“I will sometimes go search out for more
When I do, I’ll always end up at our door
For you, dear, mean everything”
Queue up “I Will” as the sun sets wherever you are. You can bask in its sun-kissed mellow warmth – no tequila necessary. The band’s self-titled debut EP arrives June 15 with pre-orders here.
The Color Forty Nine are: Phil Beaumont (vocals, ukulele), Jason Hooper (bass, backing vocals), Matt Resovich (violin, keys, guitar, backing vocals), and John Meeks (drums, backing vocals).
Juliana Daugherty – “Player” (Charlottesville, VA USA)
RIYL: Daughter, London Grammar, Florence Welch
Listening to “Player” from emerging American singer/songwriter Juliana Daugherty should count as a therapy session. Her voice summons a wellspring of emotions that rise up and leave you gasping for breath. Her vocals – whispery soft yet wrought with ache – are cathartic on their own. But paired with shimmering instrumentation, those vocals become ethereal and devastatingly beautiful. Daugherty says she wrote her debut album, Light, to “strip mental illness of its power” because “there is nothing beautiful to be gleaned from the experience of depression.”
The intimacy of her delivery draws you in, keeping your focus transfixed as the layers unfold. Daugherty builds upon a soft guitar refrain that transforms as you listen. What starts quietly gains added synth and percussion textures with each passing minute. That subtle crescendo grows ever brighter as it nears the three-minute mark where the layers fully reveal their crystalline elegance. This is when you realize how wrong she is about her “nothing beautiful” sentiment: on this song she has created beauty from pain. With this song she breaks through your emotional barriers and helps guide you toward healing.
Now is the time to get to know this incredible talent. Juliana Daugherty has a poet’s soul and a siren’s voice. “Player” is from her upcoming album, Light. It arrives June 1 from Western Vinyl with pre-orders from the label, Amazon, and iTunes.
Jon Hopkins – “Singularity” (London, England)
RIYL: Four Tet, Ulrich Schnauss, Kiasmos
When you slip on your headphones to hear “Singularity” from Jon Hopkins for the first time, the music prepares you mentally for a journey. The steadily pulsing intro is akin to an aircraft taxiing on a runway as it begins its ascent into the heavens. That sense of forward propulsion is what drives “Singularity” into its ultimate destination: a higher plane where your senses are elevated and each note flashes with the brilliance of a million stars. Close your eyes as you listen and join Hopkins on that journey.
Throughout the song’s four-plus minutes you are treated to a soundscape as varied as this planet we tread. The airy heights in the first half reveal few hints of the depths that await you near the end. This is what makes Jon Hopkins a master of his genre: you never know where the music will take you but you know the trip will be exhilarating.
Fans of Hopkins’ four previous albums have much to savor on this Singularity LP. Likewise, its depths and textures will surely create new fans who become entranced by the title track.
Pining For Sunshine – “Bellevue, WA” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: Beach House, DIIV, Destroyer
When most people think of Seattle, they typically associate the Emerald City with rain and fog. It’s no surprise that an emerging artist from the UK – a place with a comparable climate – has a song about a suburb of Seattle. “Bellevue, WA” from Brighton artist Pining For Sunshine is a lush slice of indie bedroom pop as mellow as a rainy afternoon.
Pining for Sunshine is the project of Jacob Shoobridge-Chandler, a name you might not yet know but a voice you absolutely cannot forget. His languid vocals and romantic lyrics have a very American west coast quality. At one moment you find yourself drawing comparisons to Beach House and DIIV, until a sweet saxophone interlude calls to mind Dan Bejar’s Destroyer. It’s hard not to sigh at lines like this:
“So let’s find a place and settle down
They say that nothing lasts forever
We could do better”
From the first hazy note to the last, Pining For Sunshine invites you to lose yourself in a dream, to envision a place where doors of opportunity await your knock – even if that place is in one of America’s rainiest metropolitan areas.
Sarah Mary Chadwick – “Five Months” (Melbourne, Australia via Taumarunui, NZ)
RIYL: Beth Orton, Butterfly Boucher, Jem
New Zealand native Sarah Mary Chadwick delivers an emotionally raw performance on “Five Months” from her upcoming Sugar Melts in the Rain album. Backed by a solitary piano, the now Melbourne-based Chadwick sends chills up your spine as she pleads for a loved one to return:
“You’ve been gone for five months too long
so come back when you hear this song”
Everyone can relate to the ache in her voice. That longing is of a heart trying to remain hopeful and strong despite a prolonged absence. But that tenderness is what makes Chadwick’s delivery so poignant. This song needs no further embellishment in the form of strings or backing vocals. This ballad has the unadorned simplicity of a single rose, graceful yet effective. If you need a good cry (or if you, too, are missing someone), then queue up this torch song and sing along. Like many powerful singers before her (Beth Orton and Butterfly Boucher come to mind), Chadwick conveys emotional vulnerability through a soft vocal approach. The result is stunning.
Jackson James Smith – “Midnight Romance” (Brisbane, Australia)
RIYL: Allen Stone, Amos Lee, James Bay, John Legend
Wrapping up today’s playlist is a sizzling number from a rising Aussie talent. Soulful 22-year-old crooner Jackson James Smith is poised to give John Legend a run for his money. Need proof? Just spin Smith’s new “Midnight Romance” single, then sit back and prepare to be wowed.
With vocals as rich as caramel and smooth as cashmere, Smith is positioning himself as the heir apparent to the indie pop-soul throne. But this guy isn’t just a singer; he’s a talented guitarist who has been playing for half of his young life. If this is how great he sounds in his early 20s, imagine where he will be in a few years! He’s been building his career in Australia for the last few years; however, “Midnight Romance” should be the chart topper that brings him worldwide fame.
“Midnight Romance” embraces old-school soul elements while still sounding thoroughly modern. There is no denying Smith’s impressive vocal abilities. The guy reminds you of many legends, both past and present – from Stevie Wonder and John Legend to Allen Stone and Amos Lee. The “sizzle factor” here is off the charts, so one thing is certain: it’s only a matter of time until Jackson James Smith is a global household name.
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