Melodic Tonic ’16, vol. 46 – your mid-week serving of new music cocktails – includes a dash of holiday cheer and huge dose of heart. Proceeds from some of these singles will benefit charitable organizations. Let’s get things started with a pair of politically inspired tunes.
Austra – “Future Politics” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Zola Jesus, Grimes, Psychic Twin
Only a few weeks remain until the new Austra album, Future Politics, arrives. In fact, its release date coincides with the inauguration of the new U.S. president. Lest listeners feel prone to embrace cynicism then, Katie Stelmanis advocates awareness on this title track. Her crystalline vocals contrast beautifully with the somber lyrics: “I don’t want to hear that it’s all my fault / The system won’t help you when your money runs out.” Even the synth line has a futuristic sound, while the haunting backing vocals add to the song’s hypnotic effect. “Future Politics” is just as brilliant as the album’s first single, “Utopia.” If these tracks are any indication, Austra’s new album will be the one thing related to politics that warrants hope.
Hurray For the Riff Raff – “Rican Beach” (New Orleans via Bronx, USA)
RIYL: Lucinda Williams mixed with Santana
Will 2017 be the Year of the Protest Song? Many musicians are making Pete Seeger proud by taking up their artistic weapons against oppression. One particularly passionate social justice warrior is Hurray For the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra. Her forthcoming album, The Navigator, is partly dedicated to the defenders of Standing Rock in South Dakota.
“You can take my life but don’t take my home,” she sings before throwing expert-level shade. She doesn’t need to name check: her lyrics (“All the politicians they just squawk their mouths / said we’ll build a wall to keep them out”) make it clear that those who oppress minorities and impede social justice are on the wrong side of history.
Saintseneca – “All the Best” (Columbus, OH, USA)
RIYL: Band of Horses, Good Old War, The Avett Brothers
In the spirit of seasonal giving, Ohio indie folk rockers Saintseneca are sharing the gift of new music in the form of a new holiday EP, Mallwalker. The bittersweet lead single, “All the Best”, sparkles with memories of home and love. However, beneath the upbeat melody are lyrics tinged with loss. At the center of the story is a locket given to a returning soldier whose deployment kept him from attending his girlfriend’s funeral. While that’s a heavy message for anytime of year (much less at Christmas), the lively melody provides the perfect balance.
Saintseneca are: Zac Little, Maryn Jones, Steve Ciolek, Jon Meador, and Matthew O’Conke.
BROS – “Tell Me” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: The Sheepdogs, The Black Keys crossed with Flight of the Conchords
There is no shortage of siblings in indie music these days. Groups with brotherly surnames (like Avett, Felice, and Wood) are easy to remember, but you know what’s easier than that? A band of brothers who simply call themselves BROS. Those two brothers are Ewan and Shamus Currie, better known as lead vocalist and keyboardist for award-winning Canadian band The Sheepdogs. “Tell Me”, the first single from their debut album, Vol. 1, is funky enough to take your mind off politics and the holidays!
Since BROS is technically a side project of The Sheepdogs (much like EL-VY is for The National), you might expect to hear a variation on their ‘70s-era inspired rock sound. But no, what you get with BROS is a heaping dose of ‘70s-era funk grooves instead. While the backing vocals evoke Queen, the bluesy organ riff echoes The Black Keys. As if that isn’t enough of a winning combination, the brothers Currie inject plenty of sardonic wit into the lyrics. The album is out now via Dine Alone Records and available here.
Yellow House – “Control” (Cape Town, South Africa)
RIYL: Rhye, Daniel Woolhouse/Deptford Goth
Emile van Dango – aka Yellow House – creates the kind of soulful dream pop that makes even the coldest winter day feel warm. It’s natural to equate his sound with warmth since he hails from South Africa. You can’t help but feel invigorated by the sun-kissed, gently psychedelic layers on his debut single, “Control”. (Be warned: it’s impossible to sit still while listening to this song.)
From the very first note, the smooth bass line beckons you to move and sway. And if you can resist the urge to tap your foot or head bob in rhythmic response, his silky-smooth vocals will seal the deal. Even though it’s not summer now in North America, you can still enjoy a nearly four-minute holiday if you’ll close your eyes while this song plays.
“Control” is available as a single now on iTunes. His debut EP, A Carnival of Fears, is due out next year.
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