It’s not surprising that Nashville native Cortney Tidwell wants nothing more than to hold a lover in a “silent city.” Music City’s legacy of mainstream country has its flip side: a dream landscape of countrypolitan psychedelia, cool guitars, and the eternal wisdom of Hee-Haw and Jim Nabors, all dressed in Lee Hazlewood’s outcasts. Lately, though, Nashville pop groups have been reaching out, conflating decades of pop usage while staying curiously aloof from emotional resonance, although the resonance sometimes manages to abide.
Tidwell—whose mother was Connie Eaton, a minor ’70s country star—sounds infantile and impossibly old on Don’t Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up, her full-length debut. Spooky pedal-steel mixes with washes of totalistic keyboard, making this a newfangled take on electronica whose natural-mystic tendencies seem fresh and inevitable. Tidwell displays an instinct for the killer hook, as on “La La,” which floats the idea that pop itself is what’s “tearing you and me apart.” With its acoustic guitar and otherworldly backing vocals, the track sways like a Tropicália diva lost in Tennessee’s gray rain.
If Stars works off the conventions of folkie electronica, Lone Official’s Tuckassee Take suggests that heroism is only as old-fashioned as the ’90 quasi-pop singer and songwriter Matt Button loves. “Amelia Earhart” might be the greatest Pavement rip ever, except that Button doesn’t seem to anticipate any payoff when he sings, “You said a setback was just a setup/For a comeback.” Tuckassee is mainly about horse racing—song titles include “Stall of the Steed” and “Monarchos”—and the group sounds incredibly ambitious, in tune with a musical idiom that is already pleasantly dated and completely lost, which means they might have a healthy relationship with Nashville after all.