Breathe in some fresh new tunes on today’s serving of new music cocktails. The Melodic Tonic May 3rd edition features a pair of Icelandic artists plus refreshing singles from indie folk and indie dream pop artists in the UK and USA. Let’s kick things off in the indie music hot spot of Reykjavik.
Ásgeir – “Stardust” (Reykjavik, Iceland)
RIYL: John Grant, Júníus Meyvant, Snorri Helgason
According to sales figures, roughly 10% of all Icelandic residents own the debut album from indie sensation Ásgeir. His 2014 LP, In the Silence, won multiple awards and made Ásgeir Trausti a superstar in his country at the age of 21. You can imagine the pressure to avoid the “sophomore slump” with his follow-up. No worries here, as “Stardust” from his new Afterglow album reflects his continued musical growth. Its soulful electropop has undeniable appeal.
“I’m a watercolour washing off into the deepest sea / Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in light,” he sings at the end. There is no darkness here, for once again Ásgeir delivers a dazzling song full of hope and joy – two qualities that translate in any language.
Júníus Meyvant – “Honey Babe, Don’t Be Late” (Reykjavik, Iceland)
RIYL: Ray LaMontagne, Wilson Pickett, Van Morrison
Unnar Gísli Sigurmundsson – the voice of Júníus Meyvant – has captivated listeners for several years now in Iceland, and his 2016 LP, Floating Harmonies, won him scores of new fans worldwide. One listen to his brand of “Arctic soul” (as we called it last year) turns a casual listener into a devoted fan. Needless to say, those fans were overjoyed when he released a new single this year especially for Record Store Day.
“Honey Babe, Don’t Be Late” was originally included as a bonus track on Floating Harmonies, but the single’s arrival on May 1st coincides with the news of some U.S. tour dates. The band performed in New York City last night then heads to Los Angeles tomorrow before returning to Seattle in September for Bumbershoot festival.
Bask in the R&B-infused warmth of this song to put your mind at ease.
Babeheaven – “Your Love (feat. Deem Spencer)” (London, England)
RIYL: The XX, Portishead, Sade
In the year since Babeheaven released their mesmerizing “Heaven” single in early 2016, the West London indie group have become even more irresistible. The lushness of their newest song is a wistful stunner sure to give you chills.
“Your Love” caresses your senses as front woman Nancy Andersen channels both Sade and The XX’s Romy Madley Croft. While the number of bands who create ethereal trip-hop is minimal, every song from Babeheaven proves they will likely join Portishead and Mazzy Star at the forefront of that genre. Last year’s other offerings (the singles “Moving On” and “Ode to Dom”) proved that Babeheaven have the ability to wow listeners within seconds; “Your Love” demonstrates the depth of their talents for creating sophisticated, sultry music that leaves you gasping for breath. While fans would love to have a full album now, perhaps Babeheaven are planning for a late autumn or early winter release? Their luscious tunes are the perfect soundtrack for intimate evenings of wine and candlelight.
The limited edition 7” vinyl of “Your Love” releases May 26 via Handsome Dad Records. You can pre-order it here or grab the digital version from iTunes. Babeheaven will join The Japanese House on their upcoming UK tour dates.
Doug Tuttle – “Only In a Dream” (Boston, USA)
RIYL: Wilco, Woods, Kurt Vile, The Jayhawks
Anyone who has attended Newport Folk Festival knows the bittersweetness of the Sunday sunset. As yachts cruise in the surrounding waters, you try to freeze those final moments in your mind. It’s a peaceful feeling tinged with a bit of sorrow. On his new “Only In a Dream” single, Massachusetts-based singer/songwriter Doug Tuttle captures similar emotions. Last year we called his album It Calls on Me “stunning and spectacular,” terms that apply to his forthcoming third solo effort, Peace Potato.
“Only In a Dream” is worthy of being heard on folk festival stages. It’s tender and mellow, with gently psychedelic tones that blend the languid tempo of Elliott Smith ballads with Wilco-esque Americana and even faint echoes of Tame Impala or Jacco Gardner on the chorus. It sounds like an ode to a struggling friend, with final words (“you’re not alone”) that offer comfort. At just over two minutes, the song’s brevity recalls times when you wake prematurely from a pleasant dream – but maybe that’s the point. In life, as in dreams, those fleeting moments like summer sunsets slip away all too quickly.
The Stevenson Ranch Davidians – “Holy Life” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Brian Jonestown Massacre, Jacco Gardner, Mazzy Star
Like many artists, Dwayne Seagraves of The Stevenson Ranch Davidians uses music as a tool he wields against oppressors of the human spirit. Their blend of ’60s-era psychedelic folk with elements of modern indie Americana becomes a form of protest, and “Holy Life” is just that: a reminder that we need to stand against those (in politics or elsewhere) who ignore or deny the value of humanity.
The California indie psych-folk five-piece band formed more than a decade, though they have remained quiet since the release of their 2009 album, Life & Death. The world was less divisive then, so the release of their Amerikana LP next month is welcome and needed. With woozy atmospherics that echo Kurt Vile and lyrics that veer into the spiritual, the band uplifts without preaching and encourages without chastising:
“I’ve never been a religious man / but I see the need in all of us to believe in something… something true
If you believe in anything, believe in me / and I’ll believe in you
Holy is this life / I hold it all so sacred”
The Stevenson Ranch Davidians are: Dwayne Seagraves (lyrics, vocals, production), Jessica Latiolait (bass), Rob Campanella (guitar), Misha Bullock (guitar), and Andy Campanella (backing vocals, drums).
Twinsmith – “Matters” (Omaha, USA)
RIYL: Phoenix, Jens Lekman, Vampire Weekend, The Walkmen
If you don’t know the immensely talented Omaha-based Twinsmith band, then you’re in for a treat. But even without knowing what kind of music they make, the cover of their forthcoming third LP, Stay Cool, offers subtle hints. The pastel colors scream ‘80s synth-driven pop, so that’s your first clue. But that’s only the tip of this massive iceberg of indie genres. Categorizing these guys is a lesson in futility since their sound is an effortless blend of indie pop and rock. It’s fresh, fun, and expertly crafted.
Much like the breezy pop of “Alligator Years” that we reviewed in 2015, “Matters” is equally irresistible, with bright, airy hooks that permeate your head and stay there. You’ll be singing the repeated refrain of “I don’t care / you don’t mind” all day, but you won’t complain. In fact, “Matters” is so infectious that you’ll probably keep it on repeat several dozen times. It’s simply that addictive.
Twinsmith are: Jordan Smith (guitar, vocals), Matt Regner (guitar, keys), Bill Sharp (bass), and Oliver Morgan (drums).
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