When we think Nashville, a few things come to mind. While that might be gluttonous portions of barbecue, honkytonks, and that one Master of None episode where Aziz Ansari conducts an entire first date in the city, the cottage industry behind Nashville’s indie pop is often overlooked. MYZICA, a Tennessee-based duo, is seeking to change the predilections of the Southern songbook with Love & Desire, a 10-track album that reminds us less of country twang and more of bubblegum saturated jams.
In 2014, producer Micah Tawlks was slow churning songs in his basement with Matthew Perryman Jones before reaching out to Isaaca Byrd, who had been working as a backup vocalist at the time. The constellation points of their tracks go like this—a glossy slab of synth, breezy melodies and a jangly hook that, at its best, nudges you for a few more listens. MYZICA’s songs basically stake these necessary tentpoles of the genre, but the LP might be too standard to rise above the multitude of shimmer and shine albums out there. Tawlks and Byrd fail to step out of their incubator and the controlled conditions that can only generate a glittery, yet painfully grayscale rendering of preexisting sounds.
“Ready to Go,” which Tawlks co-wrote with Jones, is an ecstatic number full of velocity, both in the frenzy of percussion and Byrd’s no-inertia personality. It’s the kind of song that can make you break a sweat, as she urges an anonymous lover to “keep it in motion” in a commanding, fast-paced timbre. In what might be the most distinguishable track of the LP, Byrd slows down and croons, “Down by the river we can say a prayer / The sound of angels singing fills the air” like an Ellie Goulding gone gospel. “Believer” likens paramours to preachers, romance to religion, love to a sacrament beyond our secular understanding. It’s far more conceptually engaging than the preceding tracks and rarely comes across as yet another instance of order of operations in pop music.
As for the rest of the songs, although the sentiment is meant to be pointed, the platitudes and plenaries of the lyrics have a way of seeming completely impersonal. When Byrd’s waxy vocals project, “Say we belong together / Say this will last forever,” she can be talking to just about anyone. Love & Desire feels a bit like postcard pop—a template stamped and signed with all the right feelings, but ultimately postmarked from an emotional meridian that’s too distant from the one we’re typically aware of.