Mandolin Orange’s music radiates a mysterious warmth —their songs feel like whispered secrets, one hand cupped to your ear. The North Carolina duo have built a steady and growing fanbase with this kind of intimacy, and on Tides of A Teardrop, due out February 1, it is more potent than ever. By all accounts, it is the duo’s fullest, richest, and most personal effort. You can hear the air between them—the taut space of shared understanding, as palpable as a magnetic field, that makes their music sound like two halves of an endlessly completing thought. Singer-songwriter Andrew Marlin and multi- instrumentalist Emily Frantz have honed this lamp glow intimacy for years.
On Tides of A Teardrop, Marlin wrote the songs, as he usually does, in a sort of stream of consciousness, allowing words and phrases to pour out of him as he hunted for the chords and melodies. Then, as he went back to sharpen what he found, he found something troubling and profound. Intimations of loss have always haunted the edges of their music, their lyrics hinting at impermanence and passing of time. But Tides of A Teardrop confronts a defining loss head-on: Marlin’s mother, who died of complications from surgery when he was 18.
These songs, as well as their sentiments, remain simple and quiet, like all of their music. But beneath the hushed surface, they are staggeringly straightforward. “I’ve been holding on to the grief for a long time. In some ways I associated the grief and the loss with remembering my mom. I feel like I’ve mourned long enough. I’m ready to bring forth some happier memories now, to just remember her as a living being.”
For this album, Marlin and Frantz enlisted their touring band, who they also worked with on their last album Blindfaller. Having recorded all previous albums live in the studio, they approached the recording process in a different way this time. “We went and did what most people do, which we’ve never done before—we just holed up somewhere and worked the tunes out together,” Frantz says. There is a telepathy and warmth in the interplay on Tides of A Teardrop that brings a new dynamic to the foreground—that holy silence between notes, the air that charges the album with such profound intimacy. “This record is a little more cosmic, almost in a spiritual way—the space between the notes was there to suggest all those empty spaces the record touches on,” acknowledges Marlin. There are many powerful ways of acknowledging loss; sometimes the most powerful one is saying nothing at all.
Mapache consists of Clay Finch and Sam Blasucci. Born and raised in Glendale, California, the duo’s breathtaking harmonies and heartfelt sound verges on cosmic West Coast Pop Americana. Just months after releasing their critically acclaimed self-titled debut, the duo is back touring with a beguiling new EP titled ‘Lonesome LA Cowboy.’
Consisting of three charismatic covers, ‘Lonesome LA Cowboy’ encompasses decades, genres, and even international borders. Tapping faithfully into an era that ended well before their births, Mapache’s performances here conjure up dry desert breezes and lush coastal canyons with a distinctly southwestern brand of harmony-driven folk and country that’s at once vintage and contemporary. The pair relies on nothing more than acoustic guitars and enchanting vocals to work their magic, pulling influence from the architects of American roots music as well as formative years spent living in Mexico and filtering it all through modern, youthful sensibilities. It’s music with little regard for boundaries or barriers, reverent of the past but fully immersed in the present.
“We make music that’s reflective of the landscape we grew up with in southern California,” says Finch. “It’s a big sweep of all the really rich influences you encounter around here: folk and psychedelic and country and Latin and rock and cowboy and Hawaiian. We’re drawing from a really deep well.”
Recorded in a similarly stripped-down fashion with producer Dan Horne (Cass McCombs, Allah-Las), Mapache’s self-titled debut introduced the duo’s timeless songwriting and airtight harmonies, earning obvious comparisons to The Louvin Brothers in addition to more cosmic keepers of the flame like Graham Parsons and the Grateful Dead. Aquarium Drunkard hailed the duo as “a blazed up Everly Brothers” and raved that “the LP faithfully radiates the intimate warmth of their live shows,” while No Depression said the album “weds lilting melodies to lyrics that often extol the beauties of nature,” and Saving Country Music declared that the duo “can fill up a room with more soul soaring harmony than most symphonic assemblies.” The music helped earn the band festival appearances from Pickathon to Mountain Jam as well as tour dates with Chris Robinson, Nikki Bluhm, Beachwood Sparks, and more.
Though Mapache (Spanish for “raccoon”) only recently began recording, the duo’s roots stretch all the way back to high school, where Finch and Blasucci struck up a friendship over a shared love of skateboarding and classic songwriters. After graduation, Finch headed north to study music at Chico State (birthplace of The Mother Hips, who recently invited Mapache to perform at their beloved Hipnic festival in Big Sur), while Blasucci headed South to Mexico, where he served as a missionary for two years.
Their sound is not an exercise in pop nostalgia, but rather a distinctly independent link in a chain that stretches far behind and ahead of them.