Bask in the mellow springtime warmth of the Melodic Tonic ’18 April 4th edition. These refreshing tunes begin and end in Sweden with a mix of American, Canadian, and UK artists nestled in between. So find yourself a sunny nook with a cool beverage where you can enjoy the bliss these artists provide.
I’m Kingfisher – “Sarajevo” (Lund, Sweden)
RIYL: Junip, Tallest Man on Earth, Damien Jurado, Conor Oberst
Swedish indie band I’m Kingfisher remain one of our favorite discoveries this year. We are late to the party, of course, since the Thomas Jonsson-led project will release their sixth album, Transit, this month. It’s easy to fall in love instantly with this group: their mellow Americana soothes your senses and puts a smile on your face.
“Sarajevo” evokes a springtime thaw with its gentle acoustic guitar-guided melody. Jonsson’s vocals are just as intimate here as on the album’s two previous singles we shared, only lighter. “Sarajevo” invites more comparisons to Conor Oberst and fellows Swede Kristian Matsson (Tallest Man on Earth) and José González (Junip). The sparkling piano accents provided by Martin Heredos add a layer of sun-kissed warmth. We have said it before but it bears repeating: the music of I’m Kingfisher is a world of magical soundscapes waiting to be explored. You owe it to yourself to discover the richness of these melodies.
A. Wesley Chung – “Restless” (Glasgow, Scotland via Southern California, USA)
RIYL: Van Morrison, Langhorne Slim, Júníus Meyvant
An equally sunny slice of indie Americana comes from A. Wesley Chung, a now Glasgow-based Californian whose music meets a need you didn’t realize you had. His single “Restless” from his upcoming Neon Coast debut album is a charming anthem you will be humming along with all month. It’s just that infectious.
The secret to this song’s charm is two-fold. “Restless” is infused with soulful horns that call to mind both Van Morrison and Iceland’s Júníus Meyvant while Chung’s vocals have an inviting intimacy akin to Langhorne Slim. Hearing him sing “Time rushes on / memories fade” makes you feel like you’re siting beside him on a road trip as he dispenses nuggets of sage advice. The lyrics are steeped in melancholy wisdom that are offset by a buoyant melody. Chung’s perfect balance of California warmth with Scottish zeal shine on this tune. On this journey called life, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better traveling companion than his music.
LP Records will release Neon Coast on May 18.
RF Shannon – “Black Madonna, So Divine” (Los Angeles via Austin, USA)
RIYL: Damien Jurado, Kevin Morby, Calexico, Lowpines
There’s a lonesome, dusty vibe woven into every note of RF Shannon‘s latest single. “Black Madonna, So Divine” straddles the line between frontman Shane Renfro’s Austin, Texas, roots and his new Los Angeles home. The song’s whispery tones have an eerie quality that only heighten its allure.
If you missed the band’s debut LP (last year’s Jaguar Palace), then you probably aren’t prepared for the gently psychedelic their music offers. The tumbleweed hues of that album are still evident on the band’s upcoming Trickster Blues, as evidenced by the mellowness of the refrain “It only hits me when I’m stoned” on the chorus. Fans of Damien Jurado and Calexico will find plenty to love in this tightly-woven tapestry of sonic threads. “Black Madonna, So Divine” is without a doubt the best four minutes of your day.
RF Shannon includes: Shane Renfro (vocals, guitar, keys, percussion), Jesse Woods (guitar, keys, vocals), Austin Burge (bass), Luke Dawson (pedal steel), and Jeff Renfro (drums).
The Bones of J.R. Jones (feat. Nicole Atkins) – “Burden” (New York, USA)
RIYL: Ballroom Thieves, Langhorne Slim, Shakey Graves, Shovels & Rope
The Bones of J.R. Jones is one of the most underrated Americana artists around. Despite having a few previous releases under his belt, Jonathan Robert Linaberry still remains an artist outside the mainstream spotlight. Perhaps his new release will change that. “Burden” from his upcoming Ones to Keep Close LP features the one-man-band performing with the spitfire talent Nicole Atkins, so be warned: their vocal chemistry is incendiary.
“Burden” has enough foot-stomping, down-home appeal to charm your socks right off. (At least that’s how I felt seeing both of these artists perform last summer in a barn outside of Athens, Georgia.) You’d never know Linaberry is a New Yorker, because “Burden” oozes southern charm. Prepare to have the “Put your burden on me” refrain tattooed onto your heart as their harmonies lift your spirits. Actually, on second thought: maybe The Bones of J.R. Jones should remain a hidden gem for a while longer so you can still see him perform in small venues. His U.S. tour is underway now; don’t miss him if he comes to a town near you.
Young Galaxy – “Catch Your Breath” (Montreal, Canada)
RIYL: Austra, GEMS, Phantogram
Back in January we shared the lead single from Young Galaxy’s new album, Down Time. “Under My Wing” was the soundtrack to a daydream, but “Catch Your Breath” carries you even higher to a blissful place. As the title suggests, this duo force you to do just that because of the unparalleled beauty of their song.
Plenty of male-female duos have electrifying harmonies – GEMS and Phantogram are two examples – but Young Galaxy consistently deliver performances that send chills down your back and leave you speechless. Based on what we’ve heard so far from their Down Time album, this duo show no signs of releasing the grip they have on our hearts. “Catch Your Breath” is another example of the electro-pop brilliance that Young Galaxy excel at delivering.
Down Time is out this Friday. You can get it from Bandcamp in digital and vinyl formats.
Young Galaxy are: Stephen Ramsay, Catherine McCandless, Matthew Shapiro, and Andrea Silver.
Flora Cash – “18 Dollars” (Stockholm, Sweden & Minneapolis, USA)
RIYL: Broods, Haerts, Phantogram
Today’s playlist concludes with a breathtaking offering from an emerging Swedish-American duo. We say “emerging” because Flora Cash remain hidden gems – for now, at least. After several years together, American musician Cole Randall and Swedish singer Shpresa Lleshaj continue to evolve musically. Their latest single showcases their talents in a way that will have fans and critics alike singing their praises.
“18 Dollars” looks at the remnants of a relationship with brutally relatable pragmatism. It reminds you of how certain physical cues – whether it’s a scent, a brand of beer or a pack of cigarettes – can flood your mind with memories. As their voices entwine in a sultry tango, Flora Cash firmly stem that tide of nostalgia with these lyrics:
“All that I felt for you back then is gone
All that you told me is true, well it’s wrong”
Bittersweet and devastating, “18 Dollars” is your new guilty pleasure. Keep it on repeat for several hours for maximum results. The single is available to buy or stream from these links via Swedish indie label ICEA (Icons Creating Evil Art).
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