The Melodic Tonic ’18 November 28th is a mostly American affair, with plenty of strong talents on display. But we can’t pass up a chance to share new tunes from a timeless British band who are one of our favorites.
Swervedriver – “Drone Lover” (Oxford, England)
RIYL: Slowdive, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.
Is it too soon to declare 2019 as The Year of Swervedriver? We don’t claim to be prognosticators, but based on what we’ve heard thus far from the British shoegaze veterans’ forthcoming Future Ruins album, we predict it will dominate critics’ Best Of lists this time next year. Consider the powerful “Mary Winter” we shared last month: that tune’s intensity is eclipsed by the lushness of its successor, “Drone Lover.”
Leave it to Swervedriver to create a song about war with such breezy atmospherics. Despite its dream-gaze tones, the band admits it’s about modern warfare tactics that allow killing from afar. If tunes of this magnitude can help us deal with the war-torn world around us, Future Ruins might be our #1 coping mechanism in the new year.
Swervedriver are Adam Franklin, Jimmy Hartridge, Steve George, and Mikey Jones.
Grandaddy – “Bison on the Plains” (Portland, USA)
RIYL: Band of Horses, Sparklehorse, Low
Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle knows how it feels to have an unfinished project nag its way to completion. The band’s newest offering, “Bison on the Plains”, remained a fragmented work that never quite made it onto their 2017 album, Last Place. Fortunately for fans of the lo-fi indie band, Lytle’s move to Oregon (and subsequent divorce) proved to be the perfect time and place to dust off the cobwebs on this rainy-day offering.
Indeed, this song’s melancholy hues evoke Pacific Northwest damp, foggy weather. When you need a soundtrack to help guide you through an introspective afternoon, look no further than this mellow masterpiece. As usual, Grandaddy gives you what you didn’t realize you needed. We won’t blame you if you keep this one on repeat for a few hours. Even though it clocks in at just over five minutes, that’s not nearly enough time to savor every healing note.
Turtlenecked – “Sewing Machine” (Brooklyn via Portland, USA)
RIYL: Boreen, Modest Mouse, Weezer
Speaking of musicians with Portland ties: we’ve been fans of Turtlenecked for a few years now. This project of formerly Portland-based indie artist Harrison Smith continues to emit sparks of brilliance on a regular basis, so it’s only a matter of time (weeks, perhaps?) until the New York indie music scene realizes the talent now living there. His newest EP, Springtime in Hell, further solidifies his place as an Artist to Watch. The reason? Smith’s talents are downright incendiary.
Take the single “Sewing Machine” for example: Smith serves up another slice of slick pop perfection here. With its tight hooks and rapid pulse, this tune is an irresistible showstopper. His earlier works (especially the 2016 LP, Pure Plush Bone Cage) offered glimmers of this emerging talent’s capabilities. Two years on, that same Parquet Courts-level energy remains, only with greater depth. His relocation to Brooklyn seems to be working well. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Turtlenecked.
Tall Heights – “House on Fire” (Boston, USA)
RIYL: The Ballroom Thieves, Darlingside, San Fermin
It’s no secret that we deeply appreciate the indie artists we see each year at Newport Folk Fest. We always discover new groups, many of whom are based in or near Boston. This is where Tall Heights – the duo of Tim Harrington (vocals, guitar) and Paul Wright (vocals, cello) left listeners speechless. Their blend of ridiculously infectious electro-folk is crisper than a Downeast cider and equally refreshing. Need proof? Spin their new single just once.
“House on Fire” features everything we love about indie music: rich harmonies and dynamic layers of foot-tapping instrumentation. Cello and guitar? Check. Guest cameos from members of San Fermin and Pavo Pavo? Check. (The addition of a smooth sax pushes this tune into the zone of indie perfection.) So add this to your Favorite Tunes of 2018 playlist: trust us, “House on Fire” has enough warmth to keep you cozy all winter.
Their newest LP, Pretty Colors For Your Actions, is out now on Sony Masterworks at these streaming and purchase links. The band wraps their 2018 tour this weekend with shows on the eastern U.S. coast.
Generationals – “Beggars in the House of Plenty” (New Orleans, USA)
RIYL: New Pornographers, The Shins, Cayucas
You can find some of the year’s best lyrics in this gem from New Orleans-based duo Generationals. Their latest, “Beggars in the House of Plenty”, offers more than just polished, synth-driven beats; the visual imagery they conjure stays with you long after the song ends.
Sure, we can all relate to the lines “I lie awake at night and talk to no one” and “Isolation is a two-way street” at some point in our lives. But that’s only the surface. Dive deeper and you encounter lyrics that will keep you lying awake in contemplation: “What has the prick of conscience done to the use of guillotine?”
If you’ve been following Generationals’ career since 2010, you know the brilliance of their catalog. But their latest album, State Dogs: Singles 2017-18, is a perfect introduction for future fans who have missed out on the musical voodoo Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer have been conjuring up. ‘Tis the season of giving, so introduce your friends to this band. They’ll thank you for it.
Patrick Damphier – “Pretend It” (feat. Molly Parden & Richard Swift) (Nashville, USA)
RIYL: Richard Swift, Damien Jurado, David Bazan
Despite having a name you might not know (yet), Patrick Damphieris no stranger to the indie music scene. After touring with Angel Olsen, Laura Burhenn (The Mynabirds) and more, this veteran musician is going solo. The release in early 2019 of his debut solo album, Say I’m Pretty, should bring Damphier the recognition he deserves. The album’s lead single certainly warrants applause, and not simply because it features the late artist/producer Richard Swift.
As debut singles go, “Pretend It” ticks all the right boxes. Damphier weaves together crisp vocals with tight instrumentation and just enough strands of melancholy lyrics for balance. The verses draw you in, but it’s the chorus that hooks you and tattoos this refrain onto your heart:
“Pretend it never happened
make yourself a deal
Pretend until – till it’s real”
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