Tender Forever The Soft and the Hardcore

Tender Forever is the alias of Melanie Valera, the latest girl-next-door to join K Records’ league of daydreamers. She comes from Bordeaux, France, and makes lo-fi electro pop (along the lines of a weaker Postal Service) on a "cardboard laptop.” Her debut comes from the dregs of K’s "intimate” solo releases. K may have released some great outsider pop, but it’s also given legions of diary scribes the false idea that strangers would benefit from spending $20 on their personal art. The personal sphere is a hermetic environment, and quotidian self-expression doesn’t always fare well upon release — that said, I don’t doubt Valera could make some appealing laptop pop, but she needs a lot of work. The Soft and the Hardcore is a lopsided collection of breathy coos, kindergarten keyboard sequences, flavourless computer beats and callow lyrical deliveries. The sound is similar to her label-mate and buddy, the Blow, but Valera lacks the performance skill to contend with her. Without the same strong, self-conscious charm to gel her coy song experiments into enjoyable pop, her lacklustre effort doesn’t amount to anything special. Tracks like "Make Out,” "The Feelings of Love,” and "Tender Forever” sound like they might clean up pretty, but they’re intentionally muddied for no good reason. Tracks eight to ten are dull, quiet quickies that sound half-assed and out of place. Tender Forever is either dumbing down intentionally to fit in, or she’s not trying hard enough. That means there’s hope yet, but work is required. (K)