ALBUM REVIEW: Melaena Cadiz “Deep Below Heaven”

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Brooklyn-based singer songwriter Melaena Cadiz is a a great storyteller. This Michican native combines folk, country, and pop in her music to create scenes which showcase lonely lives across America. Her new album Deep Below Heaven, out May 20th, is what Cadiz calls a book of short stories. The title comes from a Sam Shepard story about a man who has the sense of being deep below heaven when he falls off of his motorcycle during an accident. Cadiz’s own collection of stories chronicles Americans who are all struggling in their own universe, but united in that space deep below.

Cadiz has a great voice, eloquent and elucidated. Though she tries to lend each of her characters the emotion and energy they deserve, she can come off as almost too cerebral, lacking a bit of soul. But a strong sense of wanderlust is palpable in the music, a good reflection of the words. These characters are all “striving for a better place in the world” or a way to “quiet the deep ache within their bones.” They attempt to find an escape from their inner demons, wandering around, searching, but not finding any true release. Everyone is in transit on this record, physically or mentally. The track “Home Town” is great example of this movement. It’s a very personal account of someone who feels alienated instead of comfortable in their home, someone who decides to travel West, and the catchy tune mimics the gusto with which someone might attempt such a feat.

At times, Cadiz falls into a more pop-oriented indie vibe, which can feel out of place. But for the most part, her voice and lyrics keep it all from becoming too generic or one-note. In the same way that she explores different people and parts of America, the music moves between genres. There’s the occasional rasping trumpet. Sometimes there’s a simple, classic country feel and Cadiz’s voice has the timeless echoes of Tammy Wynette. But other times it bursts with modern undertones, reaching toward something more thumping and lively like KT Tunstall. Her strong references to Americana roots haven’t appeared so dramatically on the indie scene since Saddle Creek’s days of shelling Bright Eyes or Rilo Kiley releases. Cadiz, however, is perhaps a bit too ambitious. She has wonderful, engaging ideas, but she fails to capture them in their entirety, especially in the music, and she doesn’t completely own them or make them fully hers. But ultimately this is a fun, thoughtful ride.

Listen to “Hometown” below and check out the rest of Deep Below Heaven May 20th!

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