Tender Forever

No Snare

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Tender Forever's Melanie Valera stretched her sound on the joyous Wider, and its follow-up, No Snare, is just as aptly named. Where Wider embraced the thrill of falling in love, No Snare shrinks into itself as protection against a breakup, with drum machines guiding its songs like a pacemaker installed to replace a broken heart. “Got to Let Go” opens the album with a statement of purpose, its cheap drum sounds underlining how spare the song is and vice versa, with Valera’s French accent adding to the aloofness as she sings “I can’t feel you anymore.” Love and music blur together on these songs, most strikingly on “Like the Snare That's Gone” -- about the blows dealt in a relationship, this literally percussive love song features clever touches like tapping on water-filled jars instead of cowbells. Valera's emotions heat up on “Only the Sounds You Made,” and the song fills with brass, strings, and clapping beats that sound equally inspired by contemporary R&B and Björk -- indeed, much of No Snare feels like a smaller-scale version of Björk or Imogen Heap's mix of spare sonics and overflowing feelings. Throughout the album, Valera alternates between accepting the silence after a breakup and filling it with audacious arrangements, and between mourning and healing, capturing all of a relationship’s phases with lyrics like “you stretch my bones” and “I felt the love I couldn’t give.” “Nowhere Good Enough” reeks of emotional burnout with its charred-sounding guitars, while “But the Shape Is Wide” lightens the mood and allows some hope. Given that No Snare's concept and music are so focused, Valera courts the risk of repeating herself, but her intensity carries the album (as does the fact that it’s a mere 26 minutes long). This might be Valera’s smoothest-sounding album to date, but emotionally, it’s her rawest -- and her most impressive work yet.

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