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Album Review

Wider is an apt name for Tender Forever's second album. This time, Melanie Valera's songs are wider-reaching, with a bigger, more polished sound — she's grown quite a bit as a producer since the days of The Soft and the Hardcore, presenting her "lo-fi R&B" with more colors and twists. But even though Valera works with a more fleshed-out sound, her songs have a light touch and a sharp focus. However, her vocals still provide some K-style roughness — at times, she's so choked with emotion, she can barely get the words out; at other times, they come rushing out with the force of new love. She flirts with '60s girl-group pop on "Nicer If They Tried"; "Folded Papers" is downright radio-friendly; and "Wider Too" piles on as many soaring vocals and choruses as can fit into just over three minutes. Though flourishes like the bright brass on "No One Will Tell No One for Sure" could overpower Wider's songs, Valera knows when to go for a more restrained approach, as on the wearily lovely "I'm So Tired" and "So We Could Deal." For every moment of ultra-melodic pop, like the clever "Doves vs Pigeons" (which likens love and sex to those two kinds of birds), there's a moment of confession like "In the Backyard" or "Heartbroken Forever," where Valera's singing and lyrics ("there is no more words to say here, and my heavy back is hard to carry") are sweetly awkward the way that only deeply felt things can be. This tension between pop and indie, love and heartbreak makes Wider a bittersweet but vibrant step forward for Tender Forever.

Customer Reviews

too much cuteness!

I bought this album on the strength of hearing 30 second clips from just two songs: 'folded papers' and 'how many'. It's not a strategy I normally use, but in this case I'm so happy I did. As it stands, this is one of my favourite albums of the year, and Tender Forever deserves all of the praise she gets. Her songs are carefully crafted, well thought-out, and above all else, interesting. There are so many little gems here I'd be name-checking the entire album. Stop reading this and just buy it!

Biography

Born: Bordeaux, France

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Melanie Valera was part of a girl group cover band in her hometown of Bordeaux, France, before landing in Portland, OR, and starting Tender Forever in 2005. On Soft and the Hardcore, which appeared later that year through K Records, Valera sang tender, extremely personal songs about identity, relationships, and taking off your shirt, accompanying herself with simplistic acoustic guitar and laptop melodies. Similarities to Mirah and Anna Oxygen were acknowledged. Soft and the Hardcore was recorded...
Full bio
Wider, Tender Forever
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