For more than a few years now, singer-songwriter Melaena Cadiz has been making a beautiful, dreamy brand of down-home folk that has belied her cosmopolitan NYC surroundings. Her last two albums, 2010’s Rattle The Windows and 2014’s Deep Below Heaven, leaned bluegrass with twangy guitars and banjo, intricate, organic percussion, and soothing strings while her voice exquisitely cleared a path through the enveloping sounds.
Her new album, Sunfair, is a departure, with Cadiz trying to anchor newfound stability amid many moving parts. She made an escape from NYC to California, specifically the vast, arid desert terrain of Joshua Tree. The soundscape of Sunfair mirrors that landscape. The sound is stripped, raw, sparse, and beautifully barren, hearkening to a newly unearthed inward solace. The album mostly follows the pattern of lead single “Goes Without Saying“: Rarely is Cadiz’s voice accompanied by anything other than her gorgeous finger-picked guitar and the slightest bit of reverb. She’s taken the serenity and simplicity of that environment and comfortably cloaked her voice in it.
Cadiz’s newfound comfort and ease did not come easy, though, and though her lyrics float with the delicacy of a feather over her guitar they are vivid, candid, and unapologetic. She reveals her ambivalence early: “It’s hard to make a clean escape/ It’s hard enough to play it safe.” The peace so eloquently expressed through sound is balanced with the intrepidity it took to find it laced in the lyrics. Cadiz’s vivacious storytelling, introspection, and candor intertwine in evocative revelations, molding her vulnerability into strength and resolve. Exposing lines like “The pixelation of the human heart/ It stops and starts/ A strange array of moving parts” dissolve into the boldness and determination of others like “And the TV was warning about storms in the east / Said I feel kind of bad I don’t care in least / I don’t want to go home, I don’t want to go, not if you paid me.” She manages to encompass all of the messiness of being human without it coming off depressing or overwhelming — largely due to the purity and clarity of her guitar — but also due to sprinkled scenes of humor and joy. Her expression of her distaste in NYC urbanity in particular is a paragon of the command she has of her array of emotions: “Smoked a joint, fell asleep/ In my chair at the symphony.”
The masterful control of emotion and minimal arrangement dually take the listener on Cadiz’s specific journey and make her self exploration more universally relatable. This album is truly a beautiful portrait of human being in a very specific moment in their life. It’s a moment everyone has had or will have, but few have the ability to eloquently capture it as well as Cadiz. Stream the whole gorgeous mess of Sunfair below.
03/16 Phoenix, AZ @ The Crescent Lounge
03/17 Santa Fe, NM @ Shiprock
03/19 Austin, TX SXSW @ Stephen F’s Bar