From fronting beloved indie band Grand Hallway, to playing guitar for legendary Sunny Day Real Estate singer Jeremy Enigk, Tomo Nakayama has spent the entirety of this young millennium building his name on sensitive, intricate, mostly acoustic music in the folk/chamber-pop/singer-songwriter realm. But after two critically acclaimed solo albums, he’d hit a particularly long and frustrating creative dry spell. The tried and true process he had honed over the years was no longer working. He needed to clear his palette.
The result is Melonday. With the help of longtime collaborator Yuuki Matthews (producer/bassist in The Shins and one half of Teardrops with the late great Richard Swift), Nakayama set out to create the kind of propulsive synthpop he’d always loved and secretly dreamed of making. The effortlessly enjoyable recording process of the album’s first single, “Get to Know You”, became an invitation to his creative subconscious to leave behind its perceived limitations and simply come out and play. “Tell me stories, tell me rhymes, tell me anything you like,” he sang, “Tell me all about the good things that could make you feel alive.”
Mastered by Dave Cooley (M83, Paramore, Tame Impala), Melonday shimmers and practically leaps out of the speakers from the first note, an album that fits on a playlist right alongside Robyn, Chromatics, and Washed Out. But what keeps it firmly and comfortably in Nakayama’s wheelhouse is how he delivers this kind of digital pop record. Melonday is a melodic exploration of the full range of Nakayama’s reality – the changing city, evolving relationships, and the frightening landscape of the world outside. His vocals are characteristically human and warm, stretching through the album over sweet, personal anthems like “Get To Know You” and “Free to Go”, to darker gems like “Frozen Love” and album closer “There Goes The Neighborhood”, a thrumming meditation on loving the city that’s supported his life even as it changes.
It’s just that this time, you can dance to it. You can sing to it. You can sing to it while dancing to it. And sometimes, because it’s still Nakayama, the computer bleeps and bloops carve out a deep ache and you can start crying a little bit. While still singing and dancing, of course.