From the deserts of Arizona to the mountains of North Carolina, the Melodic Tonic ’18 August 8th edition is an audio tour of America’s best new music. These six tunes are high on variety (from indie folk and dream-pop to post-rock) and guaranteed to move you. Let’s kick it off with a longtime favorite.
Guster – “Don’t Go” (Boston, USA)
RIYL: Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, Gomez
Guster have been creating timeless classics since 1991, for one simple reason: they sing about universally relatable themes. OK, it doesn’t hurt that those relatable lyrics are paired with radio-friendly hooks you can’t get out of your head. Those two elements form the foundation of their new surprise release, “Don’t Go.”
This feel-good summer anthem has the warm vocals you’ve come to expect from frontman Ryan Miller. It also has dynamic layers of shimmering synths and danceable beats from Adam Gardner, Luke Reynolds, and Brian Rosenworcel. The soaring chorus (and the lyrics “I want hippie love / future sex / 5 a.m. French cigarettes / OK, que sera”) prove irresistible on the first spin. So raise your hands and dance along while singing, “Don’t go making something out of nothing.” Then keep your eyes peeled for the band’s eighth album due later this year. The three-year wait for a follow-up to Evermotion is almost over.
Their upcoming US tour begins August 23 in a cave deep underground in Tennessee. That one is sold out, but you can (and should) try to catch them on other dates. A full list is here.
Teddy Glass – “Nights and Weekends” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: David Bazan meets John Grant
Another feel-good summer anthem you need in your life is “Nights and Weekends” from Austin-based Teddy Glass. The “no-this-is-not-one-guy” band we fell in love with last month with “Lean On” are delighting us yet again. This time the mid-week swoons come from their upcoming album’s title track.
“Nights and Weekends” has indie charm for days. This jaunty number echoes the synth-driven quirks of John Grant while recalling the rich vocals of David Bazan. Remember when you used to discover your new favorite band from a movie or TV episode? This tune creates the same feelings of being instantly hooked on a band’s sound, even if you don’t know who they are yet. We expect this is a sentiment many will share as this tune gains traction. Those “Who is this?” questions will soon be replaced with the same “Where has this music been all my life?” exclamations we had upon first spin. Don’t be surprised if this (or other Teddy Glass songs) finds key placement in indie films. The lyrics “saving up your nights and your weekends for a life that you desperately dream” are just as perfect in your stereo and on a big screen.
The Nights and Weekends album is due August 24.
decker. – “The Matador” (Sedona, AZ, USA)
RIYL: Damien Jurado, Shakey Graves, Band of Skulls
We’ve been fans of decker since we shared “The Holy Ghost” in 2016. The artist whose music can send chills down your spine or comfort you on a lonely night drive is a master of setting a scene. His storytelling allows no time for casual loitering: once you hear his voice, you are instantly drawn into his tale. Take, for example, his new single, “The Matador”: this four-plus minute epic puts you in the back seat as he cruises through a dusty terrain. You’re along for the ride, a willing accomplice to whatever this adventure entails.
“I’m just a fugitive with nowhere to hide,” he croons on one verse. “There’s not a right time to die,” is another line that stays with you. If you were actually his passenger instead of a listener, you’d probably find your heart beating faster with each note he sings. There is no denying the powerful, provocative allure at play here. Decker is a modern desperado troubadour whose music keeps you spellbound.
This single is out on iTunes and Spotify while the Born to Wake Up LP is due September 14 from stellar indie label Royal Potato Family. You can pre-order it here. His U.S. tour starts that same day in Phoenix.
Rubblebucket – “Annihilation Song” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: of Montreal, Antibalas, Dirty Projectors, tUnE-yArDs
One band whose upcoming release is on our Most Anticipated Albums of 2018 list is Brooklyn-based duo Rubblebucket. Last month we lost our minds over the “cool psychedelic funk grooves” of their “What Life Is” single. Now just weeks later we find our collective jaws dropped by “Annihilation Song.”
First off: if you aren’t on the Rubblebucket wagon, you’re missing out. Music fans who appreciate intense devotion to the creation of inventive, energized sounds find Rubblebucket to be their spirit animal. No hyperbole here, folks: this is mindblowingly great music. “Annihilation Song” displays the sultry-cool side of a band whose influences range from funk and jazz to Afrobeats and soul. Frontwoman Kalmia Traver serves up ’60s girl group-style smooth vocals while her bandmates stoke the fiery beats beneath.
Take your pick when it comes to describing this band’s sound: innovative, kinetic, or just plain groovy. Their sound has restorative powers. Crank this one, then pre-order their forthcoming Sun Machine LP ahead of its August 24 release date via Grand Jury Music.
Rubblebucket are: Kalmia Traver (vocals/saxophone), Alex Toth (vocals/trumpet), Maddie Rice (guitar), Dandy McDowell (bass), and Adam Dotson (trombone).
Old Faith – “Reunion” (Greensboro, NC, USA)
RIYL: Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Bombardier
Fans of post-rock usually fall into two categories: those who prefer the gentler fare (Explosions in the Sky, Caspian) and those who need to feel their bones rattle (Mogwai, MONO). Not all bands deliver both ends of the spectrum with ease and finesse. Anyone looking for the latter should add Old Faithto their collection immediately. This four-piece based mostly in North Carolina (with some members in Virginia and New York City) create stunning soundscapes on “Reunion” sure to leave you in appreciative awe. A recent rebranding finds the band once known as Bombardier breaking powerful new ground with their new name.
The nearly six-minute journey winds through dense forests of guitar-percussion interplay. They guide you through refreshing valleys before pushing you upwards to higher sonic elevations. Around the three-minute mark, every cell in your body begins to tingle as the crescendo swell builds. Once you reach the plateau in the final minute, you can finally absorb the magnitude of the climb. There you can appreciate the breathtaking views from the summit. In short, “Reunion” offers the emotional satisfaction of a grueling mountain hike without the physical exertion. It’s quite a rush.
“Reunion” is one of the most satisfying musical adventures of recent memory. Dig into this epic tune and discover the rewards that await you. Then go pre-order the band’s self-titled LP. It arrives September 14 via Refresh Records with pre-orders from the label and Bandcamp.
Old Faith are: Andy Schools (guitar), Stephen Baker (guitar), Josh Iddings (bass), and David Beale (drums).
Wild Nothing – “Shallow Water” (New York City via Blacksburg, VA USA)
RIYL: Washed Out, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive
Many people, myself included, wish Wild Nothing mastermind Jack Tatum could soundtrack our every waking moment. So soothing are his melodies that they transform routine moments into magical experiences. If you loved the “swoon-inducing” tones of his “Partners in Motion” single we shared last month, then “Shallow Water” may render you speechless, able to communicate only in sighs and whimpers.
There is dream-pop; then there is Wild Nothing. Throughout this song’s four minutes, Tatum uses simple elements – a shoegaze bass line, gauzy harmonies and synths, and gently driving percussion – to envelop you in an otherworldly experience. The sun-kissed vocals burn brightest after he delivers the lines “When everything was quiet for a while / there’s nothing left for us to reconcile.” The soaring melody then gently releases you back into whatever reality you’d been in prior to hitting play. And that’s the beauty of Wild Nothing songs: they are concentrated episodes of bliss.
Do yourself a favor and let Jack Tatum guide you to a few moments of transcendence. Once his album Indigo arrives August 31 via Captured Tracks, you can have a mini-holiday without ever leaving home. Pre-orders are available here and at Bandcamp.
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