The Melodic Tonic ’18 July 11th will pull on all your heartstrings. These six songs offer a powerful emotional rush, whether it’s from retro synth pop, cool electronica, or Venezuelan-inspired dream folk. Kiss your midweek slump goodbye with this moving playlist.
John Grant – “Love Is Magic” (Reykjavik, Iceland, via Michigan USA)
RIYL: Todd Terje meets Father John Misty
“Sade is playing on the radio” on the newest release from indie darling John Grant. It’s only fitting that he references a timeless singer on the retro-infused “Love Is Magic” from his upcoming LP of the same title. Only this tune doesn’t smolder with her brand of smooth R&B tones; instead, the pulsing synths here call to mind Tom Petty’s early-’80s classic “You Got Lucky” mixed with a bit of Hall & Oates.
Grant once again works his songwriting magic, pairing positive lyrics with slightly sinister minor-key melodies:
“Love is magic whether you like it or not
It isn’t so tragic / it’s just a line that you bought
When the door opens up for you
Don’t resist, just walk on through
There is nothing left to lose”
If this song is any indication, John Grant has made an album destined for our Favorite LPs of 2018 list.
SVIBES – “Colored Walls / Fly Low” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Bon Iver, James Blake
Ten years ago, the Shazam app wasn’t yet available to help you ID those songs you heard embedded into TV shows. So when you heard a mesmerizing voice like Sanders Bohlke, it took a lot of sleuthing to figure out whose voice just melted your heart. Fast-forward to 2018 when those vocals once again send chills up listeners’ spines, this time as part of the SVIBES project.
“Colored Walls / Fly Low” is the soaring product from the duo of American singer Bohlke and German producer Chris de Luca. Together their talents fuse to create this perfect example of indie dream electronica done right. Imagine if Bon Iver collaborated with James Blake. The rich, ambient tones and atmospheric intimacy would sound a lot like this. Just don’t give Justin Vernon any ideas, unless he wants to work with these guys on an indie dream trio supergroup.
Fine Points – “Ready and Able” (San Francisco, USA)
RIYL: DIIV, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive
Last week Ben gushed about the “dreamy allure” of Fine Points’ “The Fang” single; now it’s my turn to give their “Ready and Able” its share of deserved praise.
Equal parts film noir sultriness and indie dreamgaze, this song quietly lingers around your headspace at the start before gradually intoxicating you with its heady charms.
The beauty of Fine Points is the band’s ability to create such breathtaking songs that remain with you long after the last note ends. You don’t expect sonic permanence from whisper-soft melodies. But the density of their sound – and the emotional rewards it delivers – rolls in with the stealthy quiet of Bay Area fog. Warm vocals that begin as a gentle mist soon envelop you as their lush production work lulls you into a state of bliss. You might want to cancel any appointments you have for the rest of the day, because the only thing you’ll want to do is lie back and let “Ready and Able” soothe your stresses away.
Gregory Alan Isakov – “Chemicals” (Boulder, Colorado via Johannesburg, South Africa)
RIYL: Noah Gundersen, Juníus Meyvant, Ray LaMontagne
Gregory Alan Isakov – he of the golden voice and soothing, ambient folk music – was probably a lighthouse in his former life. Nothing else explains how his music cuts through the din of life’s distracting darkness and helps lead listeners to a place of calm. We’ve been fans of his work for many years, thanks to albums like The Weatherman (2013) and his live LP with the Colorado Symphony.
“Chemicals”, the lead track from his forthcoming Evening Machines album, finds Isakov in top form as a songwriter. There is a tenderness to his music – a kind of campfire singalong intimacy – that pierces your heart’s defenses and renders you speechless. Isakov is the friend, confidante, and brother you always wish you had by your side through every event. The reward of “Chemicals” is the way its soothing tones heal that pierced heart, one comforting note at a time. That’s exactly what Gregory Alan Isakov does best. It’s also exactly what makes him one of modern music’s most cherished talents.
Kylland (with Josiah Johnson) – “Make Your Own Magic” (Oakland, USA)
RIYL: Planes on Paper, Perlo, Luluc
Some of life’s most beautiful moments happen when you least expect them. Those serendipitous events that turn strangers into friends or acquaintances into lovers have a sweetness that become the inspiration for books, films, and songs like this one. “Make Your Own Magic” from California duo Kylland reminds us of the whirlwind emotions we feel when falling in love.
The song itself boasts plenty of charm from a lyrical standpoint. But it’s the vocal interplay between frontwoman Kim Kylland and her partner Todd Schramke that makes this sweetly jaunty dream-folk tune irresistible. They joined forces (both romantically and professionally) in 2017, which accounts for the obvious chemistry between them. Their harmonies evoke the same intimate warmth of two other Pacific Northwest duos, Planes on Paper and Perlo. Another pleasant surprise is the addition of Josiah Johnson (The Head and The Heart) who lends his talents here while also touring with Planes on Paper. Meanwhile music fans are reaping the benefits of all these artists’ connections.
Let these west coast talents breathe magic into your life with their melodies. Kylland plans to tour through 2019 when they will release their debut album. This song is available now on Bandcamp.
Patrick Watson – “Melody Noir” (Montreal, Canada)
RIYL: José González, Leonard Cohen, Leif Vollebekk
Canadian folk singer-songwriter Patrick Watson is an underrated national treasure. His cashmere smooth vocals (oh, that haunting falsetto!) made us fans many years ago. Yet somehow he still has not achieved the global recognition he deserves. Perhaps his new “Melody Noir” will change that.
Watson’s voice gently dances around the accompanying acoustic guitar notes. If you close your eyes as you listen, you can almost envision a musical tango between vocal and instrument tones. The song’s inspiration came from Venezuelan poet/musician Simon Diaz, whose own singing make a lasting impression on Watson. In response, he wrote “Melody Noir” wherein he sings this devastating line: “You are the sweetest melody I have never sung.”
Once you listen, you’ll understand why Watson says this is “a love song dedicated to the hole inside of you.” Watson has created that hole of longing, and his beautiful “Melody Noir” is the only remedy. And somewhere in the great beyond, Leonard Cohen is smiling and wishing he had written it.
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