Women rule the Melodic Tonic ’18 May 16th edition. Many of these six songs feature strong female voices – some well known; some new. These artists represent Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and USA.
Bernice – “He’s the Moon” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Feist, Cat Power, tUnE-yArDs
The terms substantive and richly textured are seldom paired with dream pop because most artists in that genre opt for stark minimalism. Those who stick to breezy vocals and sparse, soporific instrumentation run the risk of lulling their listeners into a stupor. Let’s face it: it’s hard to appreciate a band’s nuanced delivery when you’re asleep.
This, of course, is an unlikely scenario for Toronto indie outfit Bernice. Their new single “He’s the Moon” has all the hallmarks of an avant-garde dream-pop masterpiece: ethereal vocals that soothe your senses paired with lush instrumentation that elicits a blissed-out sigh. This song evokes the vibrant, blossoming energy of spring by sampling from multiple music genres. Their hybrid fusion of dream pop with elements of improvisational jazz make “He’s the Moon” irresistible.
Bernice are: Robin Dann, Felicity Williams, Thom Gill, Dan Fortin, and Phil Melanson.
Deanna Devore – “Seven Eight” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Basia Bulat, Kate Havnevik, Imogen Heap, Sia
Say hello to your new musical obsession: Canadian singer/multi-instrumentalist/producer Deanna Devore is the coolly sophisticated talent whose silky-smooth voice meets a need you didn’t even realize you had. If “Seven Eight” is your introduction to this stunning talent, you have the pleasure of discovering her two previous albums before she releases her third LP later this summer. (We plan to do just that, as this single has us wondering how she’s flown under our radar since she released her debut EP in 2007!)
There is much to love about Devore’s sound. The richness of her voice stands out immediately, along with the production that lets her vocals shine over the sleek instrumentation. This is not straightforward, traditional “pop” music. No, this downtempo fusion of pop with electronic accents has a cosmopolitan allure that should help Devore reach next-level stardom.
Deanna Devore is one criminally overlooked artist. Hopefully the arrival of her new album will bring her two things she deserves: worldwide recognition and a deal with a major label. It boggles the mind how she has gone this long without either.
This single is available now from these streaming and purchase links.
Neko Case – “Curse of the I-5 Corridor” (Vermont, USA)
RIYL: Neko Case, Mark Lanegan
The first singles from Neko Case’s upcoming Hell-On album (“Bad Luck” and the title track) showcase her fierce vocals, to the delight of her many fans. However, neither track featured any of the superstar artist cameos that had been teased. Lest anyone doubt that the roster (which includes k.d. lang, Calexico’s Joey Burns, New Pornographers’ A.C. Newman, and others) was “fake news,” yesterday Case shared “Curse of the I-5 Corridor” featuring Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age).
This mellow ballad showcases the rum-and-coke compatibility of their voices. Both singers can rattle the walls when they want, but here their first-half sotto voce delivery highlights the bolder instrumentation. Over the song’s seven minutes, Case and Lanegan address their fears of “this Novocaine age coming on” and reflect on past days:
“I miss the smell of mystery
Reverb leaking out of tavern doors
And not knowing how the sounds were made…”
Odetta Hartman – “Misery” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Adia Victoria, Valerie June, Jill Andrews
Most people don’t associate New York City with Americana/bluegrass music. While the city is home to plenty of indie bands, those who fall under the oversized “Americana” umbrella usually tour there but hail from warmer southern regions. Odetta Hartman is, in every sense of the word, an anomaly. She’s a Big Apple native whose brand of “cowboy folk” will have you swearing she’s from Nashville or Austin. The reason for her authenticity is simple, really: Hartman’s exposure to many genres in her childhood is the basis for her rich sound. And much like her southern contemporaries (Adia Victoria, Valerie June), what Hartman offers is an authentic voice and unmistakable originality.
“Misery” is beguiling from the first note. This lead single is from Old Rockhounds Never Die, the follow-up to her 2015 debut LP, 222. Hartman already knows how to win over new fans with her unique sound. This album should land her on the doorstep of becoming a household name.
Phosphenes – “Boy in the Hood” (Weimar, Germany)
RIYL: Massive Attack, Portishead, Morcheeba
“Girls Trip,” the debut single from German indie electronic-pop group PHOSPHENES, wowed us back in March. We became hooked instantly on the “champagne vocals” and New Wave-inspired sound. Now the trio’s “Boy in the Hood” follow-up has us falling in love all over again.
The lush intro builds suspense with each crystalline note vocalist Julee Bee utters. The song’s downtempo sleekness would be an ideal soundtrack to a midnight adventure under the stars. You can easily envision hearing this ethereal track pulsing beneath a pivotal film scene – or even in your own evening plans. Phosphenes have a remarkable talent for creating sultry soundscapes, and “Boy in the Hood” is just another example of this. We simply cannot wait to become lost in the world they create on their upcoming debut album.
The Shifting Sands – “Zoe” (Dunedin, New Zealand)
RIYL: Concrete Blonde, Great Lake Swimmers, Big Star, Sonic Youth
These days the number of music sub-genres is staggering. This is great for music fans whose interests veer far from the mainstream path. But bands with an eclectic blend of influences? Those can be harder to describe. However, some bands defy traditional terms, like emerging indie trio The Shifting Sands. Their “Zoe” single reminds us of a specific place and time: sunset on the last day of a festival when you have achieved maximum bliss. You know the feeling – when the temps begin to cool with approaching nightfall and your frequency remains tuned into your fellow festivalgoers as you groove to the same beats. Now add some warm sand and palm trees (since these guys hail from the southeastern coast of New Zealand), and we could call it tropidelic?
The Shifting Sands use psychedelic tones to transport you to another realm, via an unexpected ‘90s detour. Oh yes: their dreamy sound incorporates some vintage vibes that will call to mind the dusty, mysterious warmth of Concrete Blonde with the sonic density of Big Star and Sonic Youth. Trust us when we tell you: “Zoe” deserves to be on every summer playlist, no matter where you live.
The Shifting Sands are: Michael McLeod (vocals, guitar), Steven Schayer (guitar), Tom Bell (bass), and Jake Langley (drums).
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