Since the 18th annual AmericanaFest is happening this week in Nashville, the Melodic Tonic September 13th edition has a strong American focus. While not all six of the songs in this playlist are from the Americana genre, these selections run the gamut from folk and rock to electronic pop. We kick things off with a pair of true American troubadours and end with a pair of Portland artists.
Michael Nau – “Diamond Anyway (feat. Natalie Prass)” (Cumberland, MD USA)
RIYL: Cotton Jones, Jim James, Kevin Morby
We have been fans of Michael Nau for years, not simply because he’s an impeccable songwriter, but because his music has restorative powers. Earlier this summer we shared his “How You’re So For Real” single from his new album, Some Twist. Now he’s wowing us with a stripped-down outtake from an upcoming EP of outtakes from the Some Twist sessions.
“Diamond Anyway” is a pure gem of campfire charm that features the gorgeous vocals of Natalie Prass. The simple acoustic guitar is the perfect vehicle for this understated song. Nau sticks to basics here, letting the vocals shine with powerful intimacy. It’s almost eerie how he channels My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James with soulful crooning. Be prepared to have your jaw drop.
Some Twist is out now via the fine folks at Seattle label Suicide Squeeze Records while The Load arrives this Friday. Nau is currently on tour in Europe until early October when he returns to the US for shows starting October 17 in Los Angeles.
Hiss Golden Messenger – “Domino (Time Will Tell)” (Durham, NC USA)
RIYL: Van Morrison, Nick Lowe, Megafaun, Phil Cook
Years from now, Hiss Golden Messenger frontman M.C. Taylor will be regarded as one of this era’s finest songwriters. He’s already proven his talent with stellar indie releases (like last year’s Heart Like a Levee), but his upcoming Hallelujah Anyhow may be his best yet. The album’s latest single proves why Taylor is a master of Americana.
“Domino (Time Will Tell)” has echoes of Nick Lowe and Van Morrison woven throughout. This gently rollicking track isn’t an all-out rocker, but it’s spirited and irresistible. We loved the twangy banjo on the album’s lead single (“Standing in the Doorway”), but Taylor outdoes himself on this one. It’s another instant classic from the North Carolina folk rocker.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Little Thing Gone Wrong” (San Francisco, USA)
RIYL: The Black Angels, Mark Lanegan
Has it really been four years since the last Black Rebel Motorcycle Club album? Lest we doubt the San Francisco band’s brilliance and relevance, they have shared a scorching new track to melt our faces.
“Little Thing Gone Wild” has the same intensity as the tracks on their 2013 LP, Specter at the Feast, with plenty of gritty, punk snarl. The song starts out with the ominous churn of guitars that portend a coming storm. By the time they unleash the fury at the first chorus, you’re in a full-fledged hurricane of heavy rock. It’s an exhilarating ride from the start to its unexpectedly abrupt finish.
BRMC are: Peter Hayes (vocals/guitar), Robert Levon Been (vocals/bass/guitar), and Leah Shapiro (drums).
The Horrors – “Weighed Down” (London, England)
RIYL: Bauhaus, My Bloody Valentine
We are just two weeks away from the arrival of V, the fifth album from London’s The Horrors. Last month they mesmerized us with the brooding tones of their “Machine” single; now their “Weighed Down” has our heads spinning all over again.
“Weighed Down” is languid and lush, with hypnotic layers of Bauhaus-esque vocals and instrumentation. This song produces an instant euphoria usually found only inside a morphine dream. Close your eyes and let yourself float away on a six-plus minute trip.
The Horrors are: Faris Badwan, Tom Furse, Joshua Third, Rhys Webb, and Joseph Spurgeon.
BRAUN – “Gardens” (Portland, USA)
RIYL: Mackintosh Braun, M83, Porcelain Raft
If music could soothe Mother Nature the way it calms the soul, then the latest single from BRAUN could extinguish the raging Pacific Northwest wildfires. “Gardens” is a gorgeous exploration of peaceful, electronic-inspired dream tones that feel like the love child of M83 and Bon Iver. It’s a lush experience that exudes calm confidence, so you can’t help but feel changed for the better after listening.
“Gardens” is the second single from BRAUN’s upcoming Silence Silence album that’s due next month. We already fell hard for the album’s lead single (“Prague”), so October cannot come soon enough. Take a listen to this gem from one of our favorite discoveries of 2017, and you’ll likely find yourself sighing in delirious appreciation.
The Helio Sequence – “Out Among the Sheltering Pines” (Portland, USA)
RIYL: Langhorne Slim, Shakey Graves, Josh Ritter
Leave it to a band from the hipster mecca of Portland, Oregon, to make something vintage feel fresh and relevant again. This time it’s The Helio Sequence – the duo of Brandon Summers (guitar/vocals) and Benjamin Weikel (keys/drums) – putting a modern spin on a very, very old tune. “Out Among the Sheltering Pines” is a reworking of the 1914 (yeah, you read that correctly!) original. So why is a modern band releasing music that’s more than a century old?
It’s a group effort, basically. The duo contributed one track to the forthcoming Transference compilation from Marmoset Records. The album is a collection of vintage songs from the public domain reworked by current indie artists. Most music fans may not recognize the original tunes, so this album is a unique bridge between past and present. Music education never sounded so inspired.
The Helio Sequence are currently on tour with The Church. A full list of tour dates is available here.
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