By: Jessica Grose
Now that Ani DiFranco is pushing 40, angst-ridden, bi-curious teenage girls are hankering for a new, more relatable muse — someone who understands their lovelorn diary entries and projects the same combination of surface vulnerability and core-strength to get them through their misfit adolescences. Welcome Tender Forever, children, as Ani-for-the-aughts. Tender, nee Melanie Valera, has a breathy, ethereal voice, which is well suited for the personal-essay-masquerading-as-low-fi-pop on her debut solo album, The Soft and the Hardcore.
Emotions are plainly and keenly exposed through Valera’s voice — especially on songs like “Then If I’m Weird I Want to Share,” — a song that will have particular resonance with the disaffected-teen set. “People would say / Maybe I’m gay / Maybe I’m weird / But actually I just don’t care / And if I’m weird I want to share,” Valera sings confidently with a slight French accent that comes from having been born in Bordeaux. The melodies on The Soft and the Hardcore range from the more folksy, acoustic guitar numbers like “Then if I’m Weird…” and “Every Monday,” to synth-based, stripped down R&B songs like “Take it Off” and “Hot.”
The R&B influences apparent on The Soft and the Hardcore come from Melanie Valera’s days as frontwoman of the Bonnies, a band that covered ’60s girl bands in Bordeaux. Tender Forever isn’t going back to France anytime soon, though — she’s touring North America for the rest of December in support of The Soft and the Hardcore’s release on K.
Tender Forever tour dates:
12/7, San Francisco, CA (Rickshaw Shop)12/8, Oakland, CA (Muscle Beach)12/9, Sacramento, CA (Fool’s Foundations)12/10, Grass Valley, CA (St. Joseph’s Cultural Center)12/11, Eugene, OR (Blue Room)12/12, Portland, OR (Food Hole)12/13, Seattle, WA (SS Maria Antionette)12/14, Olympia, WA (Art House Designs — Record Release Party)