The dream of the ’90s is alive… in this week’s Melodic Tonic June 13th edition. Actually, you will hear retro influences from the ’80s and ’90s on these six songs, including the return of two beloved ’90s bands and a few newcomers as well. We kick things off with some floating action of the Space variety.
Spiritualized – “I’m Your Man” (London, England)
RIYL: Spaceman 3, Teenage Fanclub, Galaxie 500
If you felt a slight rumbling around the globe yesterday, it was probably just hordes of Spiritualized fans jumping ecstatically over the new “I’m Your Man” single. It’s not everyday that J. Spaceman (née Jason Pierce) releases new music. But will the upcoming And Nothing Hurt fulfill fans who have waited six long years since Sweet Heart Sweet Light? Judging by this song’s five-plus minutes, the answer is absolutely.
This is the point where we normally fill you in on the details about production, or background bios of the band members. Not today. This band needs no introduction. However, if you’ve never heard the band’s seminal 1997 debut, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (or you missed Pierce’s previous band, Spaceman 3), then by all means, go and dive into that well of discovery.
J. Spaceman is a known perfectionist who only releases albums if they meet or exceed his exacting standards. Whether this eighth Spiritualized album will be his last remains to be seen. For now, we can relish its euphoria-inducing glory.
Low – “Fly” (Duluth, Minnesota, USA)
RIYL: Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, Portishead
After 25 years together, Low still have that magical chemistry that fans adore. Nowhere is it more evident than on “Fly”, one of the trio of songs the band shared yesterday from their upcoming Double Negative album. Mimi Parker’s ethereal vocals still send chills down your spine while Alan Sparhawk and Steve Garrington reaffirm why they are America’s Slowdive. Their sound is simply blissful. So has changed since their last release, the gorgeous 2015 LP, Ones and Sixes?
For starters, Double Negative was recorded at Justin Vernon’s studio. An unmistakable Bon Iver ambience of lush textures and unrushed brilliance permeates every note. As you listen to “Fly” you wonder why Low and Vernon haven’t teamed up with James Blake to create an atmospheric dream-pop supergroup.) The production here emphasizes purity and minimalism. Expect waves of peaceful feelings to wash over you when Mimi sings “Leave my weary bones and fly.”
Sub Pop will release Double Negative on September 14. You can pre-order it here. Low will kick off their world tour next week in the UK, where they are also slated to play Robert Smith’s Meltdown Festival.
Let’s Eat Grandma – “Ava” (Norfolk, England)
RIYL: Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, Julien Baker
Few bands make waves with their debut album based solely on their name. But then again, few bands choose something as wildly memorable as British duo Let’s Eat Grandma. The teenage duo of Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton create shimmering dream pop under that unusual moniker – music that is as memorable as their name. After stunning indie music fans worldwide with their debut album, I, Gemini, last year, the pair once again descend as if from a cloud with their latest.
“Ava” is a return to form with gauzy layers of soft instrumentation and hushed vocals. Everything is stripped bare here: the simple, piano-guided melody is so quiet it’s as though it was added almost as an afterthought. You can picture them opting to perform this a cappella in concert. It’s graceful yet melancholy – two words that describe not just the tune but its two creators. We have been watching their career develop since their SXSW debut, so it is a joy to hear their continued evolution here.
The Rareflowers – “Shake” (New Brunswick, NJ, USA)
RIYL: Guided By Voices, Fountains of Wayne, Remy Zero, Weezer
When you hear a band for the first time, it’s impossible to resist the urge to compare them to more established artists. It’s a natural reaction. But sometimes you have a “sunlit diamond” moment – that brief flash of multiple dazzling colors hitting you at once – which makes you forget comparisons altogether. Such is the case with emerging New Jersey band The Rareflowers. (Even their name conjures feelings of “Wait, haven’t I heard these guys before?”) You may have the same reaction upon hearing the opening strains of their new single.
“Shake” feels familiar, at least in its tone and tempo. Strains of ’90s-era indie pop-rock (Guided By Voices and Remy Zero, to name but two) are embedded into its DNA. This warm nostalgia paired with equally warm vocals and instrumentation makes “Shake” irresistible. Sure, there is a bit of melancholy mixed in with the “la la la” backing vocals, but you have to expect that in songs about “star-crossed lovers.” This song isn’t so much a wistful look down memory lane as a jaunty remembrance of things past that puts a smile on your face.
The band’s debut EP is expected later this year via Good Eye Records.
Video Age – “Lover Surreal” (New Orleans, USA)
RIYL: Tame Impala crossed with Level 42, Hall & Oates, and Johnny Hates Jazz
Can a modern band make authentic retro-inspired music? To answer that, you only need to listen to Video Age for about five seconds. Then the answer will appear before you in Day-Glo yellow neon: YES! Ever since we discovered their “Hold On (I Was Wrong)” single last March, we have been addicted to their synth-driven sound. That is just one reason why Video Age are one of our top surprise discoveries of 2018.
The fact that Video Age isn’t an actual ’80s band is surprising. The New Orleans-based duo of Ross Farbe and Ray Micarelli surely were brought up on a steady musical diet of New Wave and pop, because how else can you explain the Miami Vice vibes these two infuse into their new “Lover Surreal” single? Once you listen you will understand why their new album is called Pop Therapy. But be prepared: the smooth vocals here (that call to mind Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker) will send your head spinning. Of course, you’ll be too busy dancing throughout the song’s four-plus minutes to care.
Norty – “Bad Times” (Denver via Grand Rapids, MI, USA)
RIYL: Damon Albarn, James Blake, Chet Faker
Norty – the professional alias of electronic artist/producer Kyle Norton – is an emerging talent who has only recently come to our attention. But with a sound this fresh and engaging, one thing is certain: his days of flying under the mainstream radar are numbered. The low-key sizzle of his “Bad Times” single is all the proof you need.
The first few seconds are a bit of a red herring: the bluesy guitar riff is not what you’re expecting from an electronic artist. That refrain lays the foundation for the carefree beats that follow. Norty lays down a steady flow of cool vocals before throwing in a few more surprises at the half. Those horns are your cue to get moving if you haven’t already. Despite its title, “Bad Times” is the soundtrack for your early evening activities. As the sunset dips below the horizon, queue up this gem to put some mellow sophistication into your evening plans. It will pair nicely alongside Chet Faker and James Blake.
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