Welcome back to the Melodic Tonic ’16, vol. 42 edition – a.k.a. your mid-week serving of new music cocktails!
Today’s selections reflect the more sedate mood that many are feeling this week. Hopefully these indie dream-pop and gently, hazy psychedelic-pop gems will soothe your senses. Two singles are from American artists while the others are from Australia, Canada, Germany, and Greece. Let’s kick things off in sunny southern California with a love song from an unexpected source:
Ty Segall – “Orange Color Queen” (Laguna Beach, CA USA)
RIYL: Thee Oh Sees, Mikal Cronin, Daughn Gibson
On his very new (just released yesterday) single, Ty Segall shows us his softer side. “Orange Color Queen” is a hazy ballad that will have you singing the praises of not just Segall and his music but of love in general. This mellower romantic aspect of Segall has always been there, but he doesn’t usually embrace it so… quietly. The song is so intimate you may feel like you’re intruding on a private moment. In light of recent political events, we’re grateful he’s giving his fans a distraction, no matter how personal it sounds. Music full of love and harmony is needed right now.
“Orange Color Queen” is the seventh track from his forthcoming eleventh solo album. The follow-up to this year’s Emotional Mugger will be his second eponymous release since 2008. Drag City will release it on January 27th, but you can pre-order it now from the label and iTunes.
Kevin Krauter – “Fantasy Theme” (Bloomington, IND, USA)
RIYL: Sigur Ros, Sufjan Stevens, Teitur
It’s barely been three months since the debut album from Indiana-based indie rock outfit Hoops arrived, and yet now we have more new music from them. Sort of. Their bass player, Kevin Krauter, has been working on his solo album that’s due in a few weeks. The first taste of it comes in the form of “Changes”, and it’s a dazzling gem of a tune. Its soft acoustic melodies float with the weightless grace of falling autumn leaves – and it hits all of our emotional sweet spots right now.
Like the Ty Segall song above, “Fantasy Theme” also gives us a glimpse of Kevin Krauter’s kinder, gentler side. It’s as though he could anticipate the emotional rollercoaster ride we’ve been feeling, so he’s given us this audio equivalent of a big, warm hug. At just under four minutes in length, it’s better than a quick hug. No song in recent memory can surpass the tranquility Krauter has created here. When Thanksgiving arrives next week for the U.S., this single will be on my list of things for which I’m grateful.
Holly Throsby (feat. Mark Kozelek) – “What Do You Say?” (Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: Hope Sandoval, Joanna Newsom
Australian folk singer/songwriter Holly Throsby continues our theme of soul-soothing music with her newest single, “What Do You Say?” featuring Mark Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters). Throsby is no stranger to duets with American folk/rock artists: eight years ago she teamed up with Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) on an equally calming duet, “Would You?” As if her mellifluous vocals weren’t rich enough, the addition of Kozelek gives this song an extra layer of warmth that renders it irresistible. Two voices weaving melodies with only a solitary acoustic guitar between them is a simple recipe that can fall short if both singers aren’t well-matched. However, the compatibility of these voices makes “What Do You Say?” an example of understated elegance.
If your life needs infusion of bliss, look no further than Holly Throsby. Let her music be the sonic escape you need, and your revived spirits will thank you.
Sea + Air – “Pain Is Just a Cloud” (Ulrich Schnauss remix) (Stuttgart, Germany)
RIYL: Ulrich Schnauss, Tangerine Dream, MONO
Married duo Eleni Zafiriadou and Daniel Benjamin – the names behind Sea + Air – are based in Stuttgart, Germany, but their constant touring (600 shows in 22 countries over three years!) means these road warriors are rarely at home. Fortunately that nomadic lifestyle gives their music a restless energy that sets them apart within the electronic and indie dream pop genres.
Every note of the Ulrich Schnauss remix of their single, “Pain Is Just a Cloud”, is full of yearning. The song elicits a powerful emotional response on the first listen; repeated spins add to the catharsis. Moody layers of vocals intertwined with guitar and harpsichord (plus lyra and Bouzouki) meld their cultural backgrounds of Greece and Germany. By the time the song ends, you’re ready to book the next flight to Athens! Listeners need not be well-versed in classical music to identify its inspirational presence. It’s subtle yet detectible, just as their name sounds similar to the German phrase Sie und er (“she and he”). Casual listeners may not notice these subtleties, but those who do will find a deeper appreciation of this duo’s creativity. Music this evocative should be heard with headphones and minimal distractions.
Leif Vollebekk – “Elegy” (Montréal, Canada)
RIYL: Amos Lee, Jeff Buckley, David Gray
And finally we wrap up this week’s mini playlist of low-key gems with the newest from Montreal singer/songwriter Leif Vollebekk. His stripped-down “Elegy” features the bare minimum musically: a few piano chords, light percussion, and his soulful vocals. Sometimes the basics are all you need, like a leather jacket paired with a t-shirt and well-worn jeans. That’s the effect here: less is more, and powerfully so. Any extra instrumentation would have been frivolous.
Vollebekk occupies that genre-defying realm that is neither strictly pop nor soul nor folk, a fluidity that works to his advantage. You hear echoes of Amos Lee (and even a subdued Hozier) at times. His falsetto channels Jeff Buckley, whose spirit lingers over certain notes like the patron saint of melancholy. When Vollebekk sings, “Nothing is revealed but nothing is for certain” with earnest resignation, you can’t help but feel your heart break a little. Despite its theme of love lost, “Elegy” has enough heart and soul to warm yours. Queue this song on a cold winter’s night while sipping a full-bodied red wine, and savor the richness of both.
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