Folk pops hard with Olive Tiger & The Harmaleighs

Jesse Newman of Olive Tiger simultaneously plays violin and synths.

Some local bands, the first time I see them, I spend half the set kicking myself for having not seen them sooner. So it goes with Olive Tiger, a New Haven-based electropop/folk trio that made the trek to Middletown to play at MAC650, with The Harmaleighs (who I’m also going to tell you about).

This trek to Middletown was suggested by ctverses, whose coverage of the Connecticut music scene is a must-read for keeping up with new releases (or falling behind on new releases and frantically catching up).

Olive Tiger

Connecticut has a subgenre of “alternative universe” bands — musical concepts that demand “what if…?” Olive Tiger’s niche seems to be “what if synthpop had grown out of folk, rather than rock?” The result is an eerie fusion of organic and synthetic, where ghosts wail their heartfelt insights in the shell of an abandoned mall.

I chose “The Boys” to feature because it demonstrates Olive Tiger’s idiom while fulfilling one of the traditional functions of folk music: to call out power structures from the perspective of “the folk.” As Olive explains in a Facebook post from October 2018, the song was written to address how women’s experiences of assault are “frequently met with a shrug.” It’s so frequent, despite the #MeToo movement, that I had to stop and think about which major incident would have been around the time the song was written. Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing a month earlier is a possibility, but far from the only one.

The Harmaleighs

Nashville duo The Harmaleighs offer a confessional folk-pop fusion that there’ll be more of on their upcoming (August 3) album, She Won’t Make Sense. The album is shaped by the mental-health journey of Haley Grant (lead vocals, guitar), including a romantic break-up with Kaylee Jesperson (bass, harmonies). Their show is a blend of sweet voices, infectious bops, and difficult emotions.

The song that hooked me hard was “Sorry, I’m Busy” because in leading into it, the bands explained (and their stage banter is hilarious) that “Susan” is what Haley named the experience of anxiety. The song is a rocking, incisive take on how anxiety moves in and takes over.

A bonus that I’m saving for a piece on live covers is this haunting “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” but since you’ve read this far, you can hear it now, right here.

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