The Soft and the Hardcore
At first, Tender Forever’s The Soft and the Hardcore starts off with a rudimentary lo-fi acoustic number that, no shit, ends in 40 seconds, unselfconsciously segueing into the ticktock electronic washes of “Take It Off.” That’s the beauty of Tender Forever. Taking the album title at absolute face value, the songs on this record can be subdivided into the two columns of “Soft” and “Hardcore.” Lilting and hymnal acoustic longing rubs up against otherworldly new-wave-meets-Casio-disco overload. The common thread that these two emotional/sonic states share is not only a touching belief in the power of human tenderness and togetherness (check out the eponymous manifesto “Tender Forever” for a proud and loud explanation of her mission), but also the lovely, unruffled and Gallic voice of Tender Forever mainstay Melanie Valera. A singular and subdued style that adds worldliness to the lyrics and for some reason reminds me of a younger, more excitable French Nico (or maybe Astrud Gilberto) who actually believes in the redemptive power of love.
For all intents and purposes Tender Forever IS Valera, the material is performed and written entirely by her; some songs are home recordings and some have tactical support from Olympia’s Calvin Johnson and his Dub Narcotic crew. The strength of will and singularity of vision bursting forth from Tender Forever call to mind fellow lone DIY conquerors the Blow, Mr. Quintron, Kevin Blechdom and Tujiko Noriko. Songs are often teasingly brief, like tiny minuets or perfectly formed Eric Satie riddles, and if the recording techniques are lo-fi, the sound is spare, breathtaking and wholly other. Communication is wonderfully direct and intimate. Double and triple-tracked vocals, wheezing keyboards and synths, Casio drums and breathy guitar strums soundtrack a journey for truth in human contact. You best listen to her. These songs are so near the mysterious rhythms of a heart.
K Records: www.krecs.com