The Melodic Tonic November 14th is an all-American affair. These six new music cocktails are slow-sipping delights from established names and newcomers alike. Let’s get started with an indie veteran who also released his memoir this week.
Jeff Tweedy – “Let’s Go Rain” (Chicago, USA)
RIYL: Wilco, Woody Guthrie
There’s quite a menagerie at play on the new Jeff Tweedy album, Warm. Previously the Wilco frontman shared “Some Birds” while his newest single from the album is the biblically-inspired “Let’s Go Rain.” Are the Noah’s Ark references a wish for another flood to wipe out those who are destroying Earth and its future? Is destruction “an act of love” as he sings here? You be the judge. (If you’ve heard Tweedy perform this song live, you’ll know the answer.)
One thing is certain: Tweedy’s humorous solo fare will appeal to fans of The Decemberists. Tweedy and Colin Meloy share a penchant for writing folksy ditties that remain forever lodged in your headspace. “Let’s Go Rain” is simply another example of Tweedy’s deceptively simple songwriting style: he pairs a happy melody with lyrics that don’t soon reveal their weight. No, he tosses out deep lines that entangle your focus and leave you unable to think about anything else. But there are worse things to ponder than living on an ocean of guitars, don’t you agree?
Okey Dokey – “When They Get Older (feat. Rayland Baxter)” (Nashville, USA)
RIYL: The Beach Boys, Vampire Weekend, Helio Sequence
Your mid-week slump is easily cured with this cheery tune from Okey Dokey. The Nashville-based duo of Aaron Martin and Johny Fisher have just the melody to put a smile on your face. Their perfectly constructed “When They Get Older” is the very definition of sun-kissed perfection. But don’t take my word for it: just hit play and watch your countenance begin to beam. This is highly addictive stuff. As they sing about things everyone does as they age, you can’t deny the warm fuzzy joy their lyrics produce:
“I wanna be just like you
with a smile on my face, facing my lover
I wanna be just like you
heart on my sleeve and child on my shoulder
Like everyone does when they get older“
If you like your indie pop with the charm of The Beach Boys and Vampire Weekend with just a hint of Tame Impala’s psychedelic tones, then Okey Dokey will be your new favorite band. This time of year we all need some sun-kissed vibes. These guys meet that need and then some.
Soft People – “The Absolute Boy” (San Luis Obispo, CA, via Atlanta, USA)
RIYL: Deerhoof, DIIV, Gotye, Shearwater
It takes a true artist to rise above pain and craft something beautiful from the brokenness. Such is the case with the shimmering pop masterpiece called “The Absolute Boy” from California duo Soft People. Its radiance belies the darkness of its inspiration. Meanwhile its danceable tempo turns this tale into a survivor’s anthem. Be ready to keep this one on repeat for its therapeutic benefits.
You get so enraptured by frontman Caleb Nichols’s warm vocals that it’s easy to separate the lyrics from his experiences of childhood abuse:
“Before you hit me
Before you clipped my wings
I was the absolute boy”
Upon first listen, you’re engaged. The pulsing rhythms are instantly addictive, accented as they are by intricate textures. Each repeated listen reveals greater autobiographical detail and deepens your appreciation for the song and its singer. A song this beautiful will surely help other survivors find their voice so they can rise above their pain. The fact that Nichols met and eventually married his bandmate, John Metz, makes this song all the brighter.
This single is available on Bandcamp along with Soft People’s 2017 debut album, American Men.
Beacon – “Don’t Go Looking” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Tycho, Kiasmos
Some band perfectly named. Beacon is one. Their sensuous soundscapes illuminate what is often a bleak world. Each release leaves us wondering how they manage to top their previous effort, yet they never disappoint. The spatial, haunting soundscape of “Be My Organ” captivated us back in August. The tune’s fever dream layers took our breath away. The same exhilarating rush occurs when you hear the Brooklyn electronic band’s “Don’t Go Looking” single.
Look, it’s no secret that we are fans of the collaborative magic that Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett create. Spin this tune to understand why their new Gravity Pairs LP ranks high on our Favorite Albums of 2018 list.
“Don’t Go Looking” excels at understated elegance. It is subtle yet doesn’t take long to lure you in; that happens in the first notes. The gradual build towards the soaring vocals at the 1:56 mark will send chills down your spine. The entire song is an exercise in lush textures brought to life. Even the dynamic a cappella finale prompts a jaw drop. Go on and dive into this one. It’s rewarding on so many levels.
Devon Church – “Curses” (Brooklyn, USA via Winnipeg, Canada)
RIYL: Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan
Back in September we swooned hard over Devon Church’s melancholy “We Are Inextricable.” Then last month we praised the euphoric brilliance of “Chamomile.” Now for a third consecutive month we find ourselves scrambling to find subtle ways of shouting about this guy’s brilliance to the world. Words fail us. This Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter has made one of our favorite albums of the world, a comforting embrace of tender melodies that will haunt all who hear it.
Don’t try to pigeonhole Church because no genre perfectly matches his sound. It’s brooding and atmospheric yet beyond the usual boring confines of the “bedroom” or “dream” label. It’s intimate songwriting imbued with flavors of whiskey and smoke, intoxicating yet sophisticated. His alliterative lyrics paint a vivid picture that will likely produce an appreciative sigh:
“I live with this curse – the curse of your beauty
The curve of the earth and the crease of your smile”
Get to know Devon Church now if you didn’t already know him from his former project (EXITMUSIC). His poetic magic will help fill the void left by the great Leonard Cohen.
Monteagle – “Motel” (Brooklyn via Chattanooga, TN, USA)
RIYL: Phosphorescent, David Bazan, Gregory Alan Isakov
There are no mountains in Brooklyn. Maybe that’s why Justin Giles Wilcox named his new project Monteagle, in reference to a plateau near his Tennessee hometown. Maybe he’s proving you can go home again, if only in a musical way. The intimate warmth Wilcox exudes on “Motel” evokes southern charm and stories told over a campfire. In that way, it’s the perfect song for an autumn evening.
You can’t help but draw comparisons (both vocally and musically) to Phosphorescent and David Bazan here. Wilcox has the mellow delivery of those indie stalwarts, along with echoes of Tim Showalter (Strand of Oaks). But despite subtle similarities, nothing about this Monteagle single is derivative. What you get in these three-plus minutes is music you want to bask in as the seasons change.
There is a natural beauty to this soundscape. As “Motel” begins, Wilcox transports listeners to the base of Monteagle where the climb can be treacherous with the threat of falling rocks. The gently faded guitars evoke the fog that often blankets the summit while the stuttered outro is reminiscent of 18-wheelers braking on the steep descent. You don’t need to have been to Monteagle to appreciate this song’s mellow artistry. Just close your eyes and let Wilcox bring the scenery to life as you listen.
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