Welcome to another serving of new music cocktails – a.k.a. Melodic Tonic ’16, vol. 14 – featuring six mostly downtempo tracks (3 from Nordic artists and 3 female-fronted acts) that share variations on a dream-pop or New Wave theme. The ’80s have been hugely influential on modern indie genres, so let’s get things started with a tune that sounds like it could’ve been featured on a film score from that era.
Michael Zaxxon – “My Body is Dead” (Stockholm, Sweden)
Michael Zaxxon is an emerging Stockholm-based trio (not one guy) with a new track out on Labrador Records. Get to know this group, because their retro-inspired goth pop sound is insanely mesmerizing. “My Body Is Dead” might be the shortest song we’ve ever covered (it clocks in at a scant 57 seconds!), but since it has been on constant repeat since its release last week. The hypnotic layers of reverb-heavy vocals over swirling synths take us back to the ‘80s and leave us wanting more ASAP. Even the video is a flashback steeped in New Wave nostalgia! A slightly longer, slower version (called “My Body Is Dead Dead Dead”) is available if the original is too brief a tease for you.
Pinemen – “Predictions” (Stockholm, Sweden)
Back in January we included Swedish indie rock band Pinemen on our “Artists to Watch in 2016” list. Based on the catchiness of “Predictions” from their recent 7” release on PNKSLM Recordings, it looks like we were correct in predicting that 2016 will be a big year for this band. If we didn’t know these guys are from Stockholm, we would swear they hailed from a beach somewhere in California. “Predictions” is full of summery, jangly indie rock hooks infused with lo-fi psychedelic surf rock (and a hint of The Black Lips), an irresistible combination. The single is available digitally from Pinemen’s Bandcamp page plus Amazon and iTunes. “Predictions” is the follow-up to Pleasant Pain, their six-track debut EP released last September.
Pinemen are: Vincent Fagerström (bass, vocals) and Erik Ernsäter (guitar).
Living – “Cerulean” (Bergen, Norway)
Continuing with the Scandinavian theme is the latest from Norwegian indie electronic dream pop trio, Living. This emerging band creates sunny dream grooves that sound far more tropical than Nordic. “Cerulean” – likes its name implies – evokes imagery of leisurely swimming in deep blue waters. If you need a five-minute mental vacation, just close your eyes and let Living whisk you away. How can you go wrong with a tune that transports you to tropical island without any jetlag? Living recently completed a short U.S. tour after playing SXSW last month, so we are confident this is another promising band to watch with a bright future ahead of them.
Living are: Lucas de Almeida (vocals), Nora Tårnesvik (bass), and Sturla Kverneng (drums).
Masha Qrella – “DJ” (Berlin)
The newest single from Berlin’s Masha Qrella has a dreamy quality that is serene and melancholy. “DJ” is a lo-fi indie gem floats over light strings and understated percussion – the kind of track you might hear in a movie scene where the protagonist gazes wistfully from the window of a train traversing rainy landscapes. The longing is palpable yet optimistic. Qrella has been making music for over a decade (her debut album released in 2004), and “DJ” once again exhibits her ability to blend elements of electronic and pop in such a way that you are hooked long before the song ends.
Kate Jackson and The Wrong Moves – “Metropolis” (Suffolk, England)
Kate Jackson is a triple threat of creativity: the former frontwoman of Sheffield band The Long Blondes is not only a successful singer and songwriter but also an accomplished visual artist who lived in Rome for several years as a painter. She formed The Wrong Moves upon returning to the UK, and this single is a smashing example of electronic-infused indie glam pop. “Metropolis” emphasizes Jackson’s warm vocals that evoke The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde or Blondie’s Debbie Harry. Many of the songs on the new album, British Road Movies, were written with ex-Suede singer/guitarist, Bernard Butler, continuing a collaboration begun when The Long Blondes ended in 2008.
Kate Jackson and the Wrong Moves are: Kate Jackson (vocals), Seymour Quigley (guitar), Reuben Kemp (bass), Jasper Kemp (keys/synths), and Shannon Hope (drums).
Britta Phillips – “Daydream” (Los Angeles, USA)
American singer/songwriter/bassist Britta Phillips knows all about balance. As a member of Luna and half of the duo Dean & Britta with her husband, Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500), Phillips has spent much of her career sharing the spotlight. Now fresh off last year’s Luna reunion tour, Phillips will release her solo debut, Luck or Magic, later this month. The album includes five originals and five covers, including The Cars’ classic ‘80s hit, “Drive” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”. The covers will be no surprise to fans since Luna are known for their takes on the likes of Joy Division, Lou Reed, and Talking Heads. Luck or Magic has been in the making for four years, and “Daydream” shows the perfection of a veteran artist at her finest. Dreamy and ethereal, it is a fine start to a long-awaited solo debut.
Luck or Magic releases April 29 via Pledge Music.
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