Melenas have been around since 2016 but this is their first release for US label Trouble In Mind. The album’s title Dias Raros translates as ‘strange days’ which the band had intended as “those days where you spend more time inside than outside. Inside your own self, inside your bedroom and your own universe thinking about your wishes, dreams, memories, obsessions or fears“. However, the band could not foresee how prescient both title and meaning would be, especially for their native Spain. But, oddly, the album wonderfully serves as a both reflection on, and distraction for, the current global situation.
The album opens with ‘Primer Tiempo’, a burst of discordant notes that blossoms into the drone of keyboards, twang of bass and then a delicate, but perfect, vocal line. This track, as with the rest of the album, seemed wonderfully new and yet warmly familiar and reminded me of many 1980s indie-bands that were an important part of my early musical history. Then on reading the press blurb for the album’s second track, ‘No Puedo Pensar’, the band reference the Marine Girls (Tracey Thorn’s pre-Everything But The Girl band with school friends Alice Fox and Gina Hartman). They talk about the song saying “it’s also guided by the mental image of those memories that you can watch on your parents old video tapes or in a video of Marine Girls, for example” and, in turn, their video references Marine Girls – A Place in the Sun, 1983 with a visit to a fun fair.
I can hear something of the Marine Girls’ youthful optimism echoed in the music of Melenas. They mix beautifully reflective and dreamlike tracks with driving rhythms. The songs ‘El Tiempo Ha Pasado’, ‘En Madrid’ and ‘Vals’ drift, lazy-river-like, utilising pauses and weaving delicious tunes in and out of big-reverb vocals which often float overheard like pillowy clouds. Then on songs like ‘Ciencia Ficción’ and ‘Ya No es Verano‘ I hear the propulsion of 80s Liverpool bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes and Big In Japan where the jangle of guitar races with the swirling Farfisa-like organ and catchy tunes bubble and swoop and explode around you like eating popping candy and taking a swig of Coke at the same time.
There is a glorious summer-like quality to Dias Raros and Melenas – Oihana: guitarra, teclado y voz (guitar, keyboard, vocals), Leire: bajo y voz (bass, vocals), María: teclado (keyboards) and Lauri: batería (no Google translate needed for this one) – have brought a depth of emotion and quality to this album which is the right kind of infectious. I felt simultaneously like I had owned this album for years but also discovered the nugget of gold in a pan of river dirt that all music lovers live for. My advice: pour yourself a tall drink, face your chair to the sun, pop in your headphones and let Melenas carry you off to a better place.
Review by Paul F Cook