“It’s hard to make a clean escape,” Melaena Cadiz admits early on in her new album, Sunfair. But it’s been on her mind nonetheless. The songwriter, long based out of New York City, made a break for the West Coast in 2015 and on Sunfair she’s managed a breakthrough as well. Cadiz has honed her technique and striped away any excess, leaving her haunting vocals and evocative storytelling unadorned, but also unencumbered.
A writing retreat in Joshua Tree earlier in the year, where she wrote the bulk of these songs, was a turning point for Cadiz. The artist, whose voice and prose are at once earthy and ethereal, wistfully recalls the sound of crows flying by. “It was so quiet you could hear the wing flaps,” she says. “There weren’t a lot of outside distractions so I found myself looking inward, taking inventory my thoughts and reflecting on the last few years.” The result is a spacious and rhythmic solo album, driven largely by her steel-string guitar playing and swirling vocals. The songs have a brushy, hazy quality to them evocative of the vast open space and brittleness of the desert.
Like the best confessional stories, these nine tracks are deeply personal, but have a universal ring that speaks directly to the listener. Gently threaded together by a desire to “get back to the heart of things,” the songs share an inkling that life could be something different. From the opening track that playfully describes getting stoned and falling asleep at the symphony, to returning home and realizing how tethered we are to where we come from (“Goes Without Saying”), to making a break for it (“Last Night in My Dream”); there’s the shadow of escape in it’s many guises, the struggle to make a break and the looming truth that wherever you go, there you are.
Sunfair is named for the dirt road that lead up to the mesa where Cadiz stayed in Joshua Tree. There’s a playfulness and rawness to these tracks that seems accidental, like we’ve caught the singer off guard, singing to herself on the front porch. But the album’s landscape is skillfully crafted. It’s rich and warm and dreamy and an enchanting place to get lost in.
1. At the Symphony
2. Goes Without Saying
3. Last Night in My Dream
4. 141 Livingston
5. Stayed Too Long
6. The Fight
8. The Shape of Things
9. Some Days
CD: 4-panel digipak, shrink-wrapped
mp3: 320kbps mp3s delivered immediately upon purchase