“He’s been breaking my heart / Since the first day that I met him / He said ‘Be good, be safe, see you someday’ / But I’m still trying to shake it.”
Red Deer, AB-born, and current Toronto, ON-resident synth-rocker TOVI (moniker of Rebecca Emms) is excited to share “Mad Melancholia,” her latest single released today, and the first since her “Hard Feelings” EP from last April. With an ethereal mixture of heavy synth, sonic distortion and obscured vocals, TOVI once again finds herself firmly rooted within the trance-like dreamy-pop world of the much larger alt-pop universe.
“Mad Melancholia” also finds TOVI adding some notable cinematic psychedelic rock influences into her repertoire; the strobing synth and driving beats opening up into electronic strings and expansive sub-bass. “[This] is a song about mentally spiraling. Those late night/early morning thoughts where it seems like everything is the absolute worst, the ones that keep you from falling asleep. Fading in and out of reality,” TOVI offers. “I wanted the dramatic lyrics with the lullaby-like melody to feel a bit tongue in cheek, expressing this frustration of losing control of my own thoughts.”
“It’s like walking on nails / Trying to break out of jail / It’s making me sad / Making me cry / Got some mad melancholia / I’m crossing my heart / Hoping I’ll die / Got some mad melancholia.”
The opening riffs for “Mad Melancholia” are a sonic delight, reminiscent of the intro to Kim Wilde’s synth-pop hit “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (which itself prompts fond memories of my misspent teen years in the UK discovering my own musical identity) – before TOVI’s vocals arrive, quickly returning my thoughts back to the ‘here and now’ in the process. Vocals, I might add, so perfectly aligned in both sound and style to that of a certain Molly Rankin, that you may be forgiven if the word Alvvays dances across the tip of your tongue. The dreamy-pop nature of Rankin’s band compares favorably here – as the ultimate modern-era shoegaze delight – yet TOVI delivers just a little more edge from her voice, itself a perfect mate to the added intensity of her instrumentation.
Having collaborated on the “Hard Feelings” EP, TOVI reunites with producer Josh Korody (Breeze) for this single, with mastering duties handled by Jesse F Keeler (Death From Above 1979). “A lot of the song was recorded in my bedroom studio with instruments added/edited with Josh Korody in his studio,” TOVI recalls. “It turned out really cinematic.” TOVI also created an animated video to coincide with the single release – an art-form that has been popularized over the last year, no doubt fueled by inaccessibility to videographers and the constraints imposed upon recording studios during the pandemic. Stunning examples from Dizzy & Fay, and Abigail Lapell spring to mind, as does the clip for “Any Old Boat, the recent release from Jadea Kelly, and TOVI now adds her name to this growing list. “I felt inspired by both the sound and visual elements of the lyrics in the song to take a stab at creating an animation for the first time,” she adds. “It was all a big experiment of creating these moving sketches, that eventually came together as a full video.”
“Bad thoughts bad vibes / Living in my mind / I wish I was just dreaming / It’s like walking on nails / Trying to break out of jail / It’s making me sad / Making me cry / Got some mad melancholia / I’m crossing my heart / Hoping I’ll die / Got some mad melancholia.”
Photo Credit: Rebecca Emms