PLAYING THE BAY: Madi Sipes & the Painted Blue Find the Beat of a “Heavy Heart”

COLUMNS|Playing The Bay

Credit where it’s due to Madi Sipes & The Painted Blue for maintaining a consistent aesthetic. The album art for the last few singles look like snapshots from the underground parlor of a lovelorn 1940s tattoo artist who hasn’t skipped a day of adding her beauty mark in the last 10 years. Their latest, “Heavy Heart,” features the same boudoir red-and-blue lighting as the previous follow-ups to their 2018 full-length debut Privacy, but this is the first snap in which a body actually appears, wrapped in comically large chain to represent the weight — both emotional and (seemingly) physical — of romantic attachment.

On first listen, melancholy oozes from the opener, but there is a palpable energy and odd optimism in the lyrics that undercuts the moody guitars and tinkling 80’s piano. Sipes’s voice is deep and rich, sliding through harmonies and call-and-responses in a way that makes me question if this was production magic or if Sipes is, simply, a sort of musical hydra who can create her own chorus of smokey-voiced clones at will.

Its previously-released b-side, “I’ll Be Ready When You Are,” starts out with a very Marvin Gaye-esque riff that carries a hint of the song’s more sensual leanings, despite an early switch to more low-key piano backing. It certainly works in tandem with “Heavy Heart,” but the latter’s more complicated production and glam guitar solo allow Sipes and her bandmates Nick Cunningham (bass, synth) and Caleb Koehn (drums, sampling), to elevate the tune to a more modern place.

This is a sensual piece of work, but the sense of coolness is steadfast, both literally (I love Sipes’s immediately recognizable voice) and sonically. The tones are bright, the beats like the gentle back-and-forth of pool waves. Listening feels like stepping into open space, even with the intimate lyrics.

West Coast residents will have plenty of chances to bask in the band’s sultry neon glow as they embark on their “Daze Off” tour; see dates below.

6/27 – Reno, NV @ Pignic Pub *^
6/29 – Davis, CA @ Sophia’s Thai Kitchen *^
7/2 – Portland, OR @ Strum PDX *^
7/3 – Seattle, WA @ Crocodile Back Bar *^
7/18 – Las Vegas, NV (House Show) *^
7/19 – Los Angeles, CA @ Silverlake Lounge *^
7/21 – San Diego @ The Holding Company*^
7/24 – San Francisco, CA @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall *^
7/25 – Sacramento, CA @ Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub *^+

* w/ @animalsintheatticband
^ w/ @cuginomusic
+ w/ @rivvrs

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