Singer-songwriter (and actress) Sara Melson shifts nimbly between styles on her new album “Safe and Sound,” her third full-length and first since 2013’s “A Million White Stars.” But whether sounding the winsome folkie, wounded dream-popper or pop siren, Melson connects with her straight-to/straight-from-the-heart candor — the shunned kiss in the opening verse of “Go Where It’s Warm” is exemplary, along with moments in the dreamy “Inside Our Circle,” the orchestrated pop hymn “El Matador Beach” and even her cover of the Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations,” turned into a bummer anthem.
The sanguine retro-popper “For Your Love” sounds like something Nilsson might have authored, but it was in fact written by Justin Webb, the son of Hall of Famer Jimmy Webb, member of the Webb Brothers and Melson’s ex-husband. “I’ll never forget the first time I heard him play it for me. It was a joyful moment,” she says. “He also played and sang it to me at our wedding, on a grand piano. A few weeks later we recorded this version of it together in our home studio, this time with me singing the vocals. It was a beautiful and romantic start to a marriage that lasted only one year. We discovered that what was initially a musical fascination with each other maybe should’ve stayed in the artistic realm.”
Melson explains that the song remained stashed on her computer until recently, when she felt she might need an an upbeat song to balance all the melancholy ones on “Safe and Sound.” “I dug it out, dusted it off, gave it a listen, and memories flooded back,” she says. “What I realized was that the song itself lives on as a testament to the purity, idealism and innocence of our love at that time. To me, it validates what otherwise would be considered a discarded relationship. That’s the beauty of songwriting — that something beautiful survives out of the ashes.”
“Safe and Sound,” recorded in an Airstream trailer in Ojai and the Beachwood Canyon studio of producer Rick Parker (Lord Huron, Raveonettes, BRMC, Joseph Arthur), is out Sept. 9.
||| Stream: “For Your Love”
||| Also: Stream “El Matador Beach”
||| Live: Sara Melson plays Sept. 17 at the Besant Lodge in Beachwood Canyon.