Tender Forever

Being the girlfriend of Tender Forever's Melanie Vera has to be as much of a curse as it is a blessing. On the plus side, your French expat squeeze writes nose-wrinklingly cute, keyboard-driven pop songs that thoroughly convey the depths and assorted complexities of her feelings for you. On the minus side, she's a musician who must put these lushly intimate forget-me-nots out into the world at large. And if her lo-fi debut, The Soft and the Hardcore, felt hesitant — both in terms of execution and its creator's emotional sapphic awakening — the aptly titled Wider reflects an expanded confidence in Valera's songwriting skills and acceptance of her sexuality.

The album's core themes are physical and sexual love in the post-honeymoon period. The soaring "Doves vs. Pigeons" makes the case that the two are necessarily intertwined, as guiding instrumental girders take a back seat to sweetly cinematic multitracked vocal oooohs. "How Many," on the other hand, humps a delirious, forefronted chassis of hyperactive tambourines, manipulated handclaps, hopscotch synth beats, and Wurlitzer whooshes en route to the realization that sleeping alone actually aches now:  "This bed is too nice/I'd like to kiss your eyes." Valera swipes the stilted lyrical cadence from the Beach Boys' "Vegetables" for "Well, I'm Taking It," a Hawaiian-flavor tour diary remembrance that finds our heroine and her lover in a green room, singing "at least three or four songs of the Slits."


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