The Halloween edition of the Melodic Tonic is full of tasty treats instead of tricks. These six tunes are the mellow soundtrack to help you relax after whatever ghoulish events are on your calendar. We begin with the arrival of an indie artist who feels like an old friend.
Pedro the Lion – “Yellow Bike” (Seattle via Phoenix, USA)
RIYL: David Bazan, Damien Jurado, Nada Surf
The last time David Bazan released a new Pedro the Lion album, Taylor Swift wasn’t old enough to drive. Let that sink in for a minute. Needless to say, fans are rejoicing at the arrival of “Yellow Bike” from his upcoming LP, Phoenix. This follow-up to his 2004 LP, Achilles Heel, finds Bazan venturing down memory lane. A visit to his childhood home in Arizona and a memorable Christmas gift inspired this tune.
In his usual warm style, Bazan balances introspection with wisdom as he draws parallels between childhood and adulthood. “Yellow Bike” wouldn’t be a Pedro the Lion song if it didn’t have emotionally potent, gut-punch lyrics:
“Just remember what it was like
Astride that yellow bike
…that little ache inside
My kingdom for someone to ride with.”
Pedro the Lion is: David Bazan (bass, vocals, lyrics), Erik Walters (guitar, backing vocals), and Sean Lane (drums).
Moonface – “Minotaur Forgiving Knossos” (Vancouver Island, Canada)
RIYL: Wolf Parade, Besnard Lakes, Handsome Furs, Bon Iver
‘Tis the season for mixed emotions. As we celebrate the arrival of new Pedro the Lion tunes, we bid adieu to Moonface, the project from Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug. After six albums, Krug has decided to put the project to rest with a lucky seventh LP titled This One’s For the Dancer & This One’s For the Dancer’s Banquet.
The dazzling layers on “Minotaur Forgiving Knossos” serve as quite the parting gift for listeners. This tune reveals kaleidoscopic facets at every turn. In fact, throughout the song’s nearly five minutes, your senses are equally bombarded by percolating synths and Greek mythology references. But in case you’ve forgotten about the minotaur and labyrinth, no worries. You need not have read any classics to understand the concept of being “a monster in a maze” that he describes.
In fact, Krug explains that this tune is about empathy: “The Minotaur is examining the horrible nature of a lifetime trapped unjustly within a labyrinth, while simultaneously forgiving those responsible for putting him there.” Empathy never sounded so upbeat and electrifying
All pre-orders will ship with a postcard included, on which you can write a question you might have for Spencer Krug. Just fill out the “Question” side of the card, seal it in the enclosed envelope (we’ve included postage) and drop it back in the mail. Spencer will respond to your question and mail the postcard back to you in December if you submit it by Friday, November 30.
Cass McCombs – “Sleeping Volcanoes” (Concord, CA, USA)
RIYL: Kevin Morby, Tom Petty, Phosphorescent
When you pass by people during the day, do you have any idea the depth of emotions that lurk just below the surface? Their smiles might conceal deep anger or sorrow that could spew at any moment. That truth is the basis for the new Cass McCombs single, “Sleeping Volcanoes.”
This powerful tune comes from his upcoming ninth album, Tip of the Sphere, that’s due next February. On this album McCombs once again shows why he’s one of indie music’s finest singer-songwriters. If you aren’t moved by his thought-provoking lyrics, then you’re sure to be swayed by the richness of his vocals and music. Throughout the song’s four-plus minutes, McCombs mesmerizes with intricate melodies. His laid-back delivery of the “all over the world” mantra has the dusty intimacy of Phosphorescent intertwined with the rocking swagger of Tom Petty. Meanwhile the outro will have you pondering how McCombs can sound so much like Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler. It boggles the mind that McCombs is not a global sensation at this point. But the arrival of his new album might just change that.
McCombs is joined by bandmates Dan Horne (bass), Frank LoCrasto (piano, organ), Otto Hauser (drums), and other guest musicians.
Timber – “Shuttlecock” (Birmingham, AL, USA)
RIYL: Cowboy Junkies, Aimee Mann, Bonnie Prince Billy
Autumn in the south is a mostly warm and cozy season, a time when everything under the sun takes on an amber glow. That same vibrant warmth echoes throughoug the latest from Alabama duo Timber. The mellow single “Shuttlecock” from their upcoming full-length debut, The Family, is a joy from start to finish. It’s essentially southern – unhurried, intimate, and welcoming – with a refrain that weaves itself onto your heart upon first listen.
The Family follows their 2015 self-titled debut EP and gives new fans plenty to appreciate. Meanwhile, the duo’s longtime fans will delight in the familiar magic the two create. Will Stewart delivers hypnotic guitarwork while Janet Simpson-Templin’s honeyed vocals leave you sighing in close-eyed bliss. Based on what we’ve heard from this song, it’s clear that Timber have made a perfect companion piece to Cowboy Junkies’ 1993 classic, Pale Sun, Crescent Moon. This music is your ideal soundtrack for autumn sunsets and campfire evenings. Lose yourself in the coziness of Timber’s music. It’ll do your soul good.
Matthew E. White – “No Future in Our Frontman” (Richmond, VA USA)
RIYL: John Grant, Kevin Morby, Leif Vollebekk
As the U.S. mid-term elections approach, many Americans turn to music to save their sanity. If we were to create a playlist of the best politically-themed tunes, this new one from indie artist extraordinaire Matthew E. White would be included. But fortunately for us, White has already done just that: he has shared three volumes of his No Future in Our Frontman collection on Spotify.
The songs are performed by fellow indie stars like Natalie Prass, Kevin Devine, and more. White’s slow-burning original version overflows with pointed lyrics:
“There is no future in our frontman
There is no gracefulness to his song
There is no melody in his choir
And I refuse to sing
I refuse to sing along”
Leave it to White to create an ideal anthem that expresses the thoughts of many – and at the most critically important time. You can get the single now or pre-order the music (with or without merch bundles) from Domino Records or at White’s online store. It arrives November 2, with proceeds going to support voter participation groups.
Big Joanie – “Fall Asleep” (London, England)
RIYL: The Runaways meet Bloc Party
The world needs more bands like Big Joanie. The London-based punk-pop trio are badasses in every sense of the word. Spin their new “Fall Asleep” single and prepare to fall in love with their sound and their visions of a better world. We all know the world is mad crazy right now due to those who foment hatred and racism. Big Joanie might not be able to end the strife, but this tune from their forthcoming SISTAHS debut is a righteous call to arms.
The trio of Stephanie Phillips (vocals, guitar), Estella Adeyeri (bass), and Chardine Taylor-Stone (drums, vocals) channel old-school girl groups with a dash of modern punk. Their powerhouse vocals and equal parts sass and sermon when they deliver a timely message. It’s time to wake from apathy and clasp hands in unity as we work for a common goal. Music like this will recharge, inspire, and motivate you from head to toe.
The album title derives from the band’s belief in sisterhood and female friendship.
This single is out now on iTunes, or pre-order SISTAHS album from Cargo Records. It releases November 30 as part of The Daydream Library Series from Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace publishing imprint. Meanwhile, their back catalog is available on Bandcamp and iTunes.
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