Girls rock the Melodic Tonic ’18 March 7th edition! Today’s playlist is the reverse of the Oscar category for Best Director: it features multiple female artists from Sweden, The Netherlands, and the USA… plus one male band. From indie folk rock and dream pop to soul-punk and psych rock, these six songs are fire.
Neko Case – “Hell-On” (Vermont, USA)
RIYL: Tori Amos, Laura Viers, Kelly Hogan
“There’s nothing quite so poisoned as a promise,” sings Neko Case on her lush new single. This genre-defying ballad can be described as dark baroque folk, but that still only treads the surface of the song’s brilliance.
“Hell-On” (with its puzzling hyphenation) is the title track from Case’s seventh solo album that arrives June 1st from Anti-.
The song evokes an approaching storm before the first raindrops fall. The electric energy is palpable, thanks to Case’s vocal restraint. She could have belted out the verses and chorus with her angry angel voice; instead she held back. This heightens your anticipation throughout the song’s four minutes. And much like the rush you get as you watch a storm roll in, you know the lightning and howling winds are coming. Since those aren’t present on this song, she must be brewing up one hell of a tempest on the rest of the album.
Hell-On is the first album Case has produced solo. The LP features a Who’s Who roster of cameos, including Beth Ditto, k.d. lang, Mark Lanegan (Queens of the Stone Age), Joey Burns (Calexico), A.C. Newman (New Pornographers), Bjorn Yttling (Peter Bjorn & John), and more. You can pre-order the double vinyl from the label and digital version from Bandcamp.
Half Waif – “Torches” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Regina Spektor
The news of a new album from another angelic-sounding artist has us buzzing with anticipation. We have been fans of Half Waif for several years now, ever since she left us spellbound with her 2014 debut, KOTEKAN. Each release finds Nandi Rose Plunkett soaring to new heights, and her new “Torches” single is no exception.
Prepare to feel chills up your spine from this tune. Plunkett’s vocals have a gentle power here that call to mind Kate Bush, especially as she sings, “I do what I want / You won’t see me anymore.” Her vocals are powerful enough in the melody alone; paired with her own backing harmonies, she becomes a siren lulling you into a dream state. A voice this devastatingly irresistible comes from another plane.
In addition to Nandi Rose Plunkett on vocals and keys, Half Waif also includes Adan Carlo (guitar/bass) and Zack Levine (drums).
Boys – “End of Time” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Angel Olsen, Alvvays, Belle and Sebastian
Boys is a common name for a most uncommon artist. While some fans may know Swedish singer Nora Karlsson as the guitarist for HOLY, but unless you’re European, this is probably the first you’ve heard of her. One thing is certain: once her captivating voice pierces your soul, you will never be the same.
“End of Time” is pure ethereal dream-pop. The effortless grace with which Karlsson sings is a departure from most of the artists on the PNKSLM label. Far from punk, this tune dazzles with synth-accented baroque flourishes you might expect on a Belle and Sebastian album. Meanwhile, the overall tone is reminiscent of the dream pop of Alvvays and Best Coast. This is the kind of song that makes you want to close your eyes and get lost in the brilliance of each sun-kissed note. If this is just her debut album, Nora Karlsson clearly has a bright future ahead of her.
Wende – “Deze Gin” (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
RIYL: Austra, Chelsea Wolfe, Ladyhawke, Siouxsie Sioux
Ominous yet alluring, “Deze Gin” from Dutch singer Wende Snijders – a.k.a. Wende – casts a beguiling spell on listeners from the first note. OK, ik spreek geen Nederlands, so I have no idea what she’s singing about here. The song might be about my least favorite kind of alcohol, or maybe it’s about letting yourself feel free after having a few drinks. Regardless of its lyrics, the song is fascinating, as is the video with its unusual cast of characters, from a tattooed weightlifter to an elderly woman dancing in her underwear:
Somehow this enigmatic performer has escaped our notice, despite the fact that she has has released eight albums since 2004. Now that we have discovered her, we will be exploring her entire catalog. And maybe we’ll learn some Dutch in the process.
High Up – “Two Weeks” (Omaha, USA)
RIYL: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Alabama Shakes, Janis Joplin
Last month an emerging soul-punk bank from Nebraska melted our speakers with their “Domino” single. We called that tune “stupendous” for how it channeled Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. But now that High Up have shared the newest track from their You Are Here LP, it’s time to find new superlatives to extol their merits. Simply put, “Two Weeks” is the sonic defibrillator you need. Maybe you didn’t realize your soul was ailing, but High Up are here with the perfect cure.
“Two Weeks” kicks off with a scorching, horn-filled intro that surely has Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley doing a heavenly boogie. The energy and fire that certain Brooklyn soul bands are known for (The Dap-Kings, Antibalas, Menahan Street Band) is in full effect here. So is the sass and swagger of Alabama Shakes and St. Paul & The Broken Bones, two bands from Christine and Orenda Fink’s home state. So whether you’re turning in your notice to a dead-end job or a deadbeat lover, “Two Weeks” is the mojo-summoning soundtrack that will help you kick ass and take all the names.
High Up are: Christine Fink, Orenda Fink (Azure Ray, O+S), Todd Fink (The Faint), Matt Focht (Bright Eyes), and Josh Soto.
MIEN – “Earth Moon” (Austin / Montreal / London)
RIYL: The Black Angels, The Horrors, Elephant Stone, The Earlies
Back in January we shared the debut single from indie psychedelic supergroup MIEN. The magic they conjured on “Black Habit” still holds strong on “Earth Moon,” the latest offering from their upcoming self-titled debut album. Do you like your indie psych rock heavy on textures and full of depth you can dive into? If so, then MIEN will be your new favorite band. Featuring Alex Mass (The Black Angels), Tom Furse (The Horrors), Rishi Dhir (Elephant Stone), and John-Mark Lapham (The Earlies), this collaboration offers plenty of mind-blowing meatiness to savor.
“Earth Moon” has the unmistakable sitar of Elephant Stone and the hypnotic grooves of The Horrors and The Black Angels. As if that isn’t enough to make your head spin, the addition of flutes enhances the ’70s-era vintage vibes. These guys couldn’t have picked a better band name for their expressive psychedelic-infused indie rock. Equally fitting is this song’s title that elevates your senses and will have you orbiting somewhere between the earth and the moon. Trippy, heady space rock? What better way to escape your mid-week slump?
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