This week’s Melodic Tonic features five new music cocktails in a variety of genres, because we’re all about variety. We’ve got dream pop, Peruvian-inspired indie rock, and retro country from the U.S., Canadian indie folk, and experimental art rock from London. Let’s kick off this worldwide musical tour in the American south.


Keeps – “Translucent Girl” (Nashville, USA)

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Anyone who has visited Nashville lately knows Music City isn’t merely a country music mecca. The burgeoning indie scene there continues to evolve and produce talented new artists who tip their hats to the country genre while forging new sonic territory. That’s the case with emerging indie group KeepsTheir psychedelic-tinged, Americana-influenced, alt/dream pop single “Translucent Girl” would have been foreign in Nashville a generation ago. But in today’s soundscape, their genre-fusing sound is fresh and modern, proving there is much more to Nashville than cowboy boots and twangy guitars.

Keeps is the brainchild of college friends Agustin (“Gusti”) Escalante and Robbie Jackson. They have been making music for several years and previously released an EP a few years back. Now their full-length debut LP, Brief Spirit, is due out March 4 via Old Flame Records. It’s available for pre-order from iTunes.

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XIXA – “Dead Man” (Tucson, USA)

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Another band that doesn’t shy away from the psychedelic sound is the Arizona sextet XIXA. Fans of Calexico will recognize the sun-drenched sound coming from these Tuscon musicians. XIXA (pronounced “SEEKS-ah”) draws its inspiration from the guitar-driven chicha/Cumbia music of Peru and infuses this single with a heavy dose of dusty desert heat. This is what a mirage sounds like, all delirious and hallucinatory. But fear not: this is no auditory illusion. “On these streets where the hot sun beats” is where the scorching, sultry magic of “Dead Man” lies.

XIXA has an earlier release from 2013 when they were called Chicha Dust; they emerged with this moniker last September. They released their Shift and Shadow EP back in November, a teaser to their full-length debut coming this month. Bloodline drops February 19 (UK) and February 26 (North America) via Barbès Records and is available from Amazon and iTunes (US and EU).

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The Cactus Blossoms – “Traveler’s Paradise” (Minneapolis, USA)

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the cactus blossoms

Brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum — aka The Cactus Blossoms — have a retro sound that’s straight out of the early days of country. Their impeccable harmonies call to mind other brotherly bands (like The Louvin Brothers and The Everly Brothers) that were popular in the ’40s and ’50s, long before their time. The brothers from Minnesota formed the band in 2010 and honed their performance skills over a long residency at a club in St. Paul. Career doors started opening when they crossed paths with the likes of English folk star Nick Lowe (who invited them to open his last tour) and American rockabilly artist JD McPherson. The latter was so impressed with their sound that he produced their recent debut album. You’re Dreaming released January 22 via Red House Records and is available from the band’s online storeAmazon, and iTunes. If you want to be wooed by old-fashioned country music from two talented siblings, The Cactus Blossoms’ “Traveler’s Paradise” will charm your socks off.

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Reuben and the Dark – “Heart in Two” (Calgary, CAN)

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reuben and the dark

A few years back, it seemed the airwaves and internet were flooded with indie folk. Bearded crooners lamenting the loss of love were ubiquitous; earnest pining and skinny jeans became de rigueur worldwide thanks to Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, and countless others. Not long after, Canadian indie folk singer Reuben Bullock released a successful debut album with his band, Reuben and the Dark. Nearly two years later – and just in time for Valentine’s Day – they’re back with this new single. “Heart in Two” has the hallmarks of a modern indie folk song: first-person narration from a brokenhearted soul, verses that address the source of the heartache, and a gentle crescendo into a swelling chorus and bridge. Formulaic approach aside, it works because Bullock’s warm vocals and the band’s stirring backing make the song an instantly relatable hit.

The single released January 15 on Arts & Crafts; it’s available from the label’s online store.

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Ulrika Spacek – “There’s a Little Passing Cloud in You” (London, UK)

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ulrika spacek

Some bands follow a carefully crafted trajectory to success, starting early with intense songwriting sessions and guidance from advisors and producers. Other bands simply get together for an impromptu jam session that reveals instant musical chemistry. Such is the case of London-based experimental rock outfit Ulrika Spacek. Initially formed in Berlin by longtime friends Rhys Edwards and Rhys Williams, they moved back to London where both the band and the music just fell into place one night. It helps that the pair shared common musical interests (Radiohead, Television, My Bloody Valentine) and a penchant for exploring sounds without being limited by one particular genre. The result here is dark, fuzzy alternative rock with a shoegaze undercurrent. If this is what happens when talented friends collaborate after a party, we’re optimistic to see what the future holds for them. Their debut effort, The Album Paranoia, releases February 16 via Lefse Records (US) and Tough Love (EU).

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