Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Clara Salyer had been studying music and theory for years at a music high school, but then she quit. The precision that was being taught, the correctness of the hook and the melody stopped appealing to her. There's nothing all that fun about knowing why something is pleasing to the ear, or why something musically works. It's like trying to explain the appeal of the ice cream cone. It's not just because it's cold or because it's sweet. It's something else. All that matters is that it pleases and that it works, even in spite of logic. The reason music or ice cream work has something to do with invisible magic. As a 17-year-old, Salyer started making music under the name Total Babe - something a father would probably never want his underage daughter doing, the pervs coming out of the woodwork to see if there's any truth to the assertion - and even began running a record label that is a subsidy of Minneapolis' great independent pop label, Afternoon Records. The music that she was making then and has enhanced over the last couple years is a form of orchestral pop music that meets you halfway between the land of Andrew Bird and that of something Judy Garland/Wizard of Oz-like. It carries a dreamy nature and often feels like a breeze, as if the verses and choruses themselves have flowers in their hair. It sounds like the music that comes into your head when you need it the most. It's feels comforting and it will help you if need it to, if you'll let it. It feels like a soft hand on your shoulder, even with guidance from a post-alternative, jangly guitar sound. Salyer has an incredible grip on what a pop song needs to have and it might be that her youthful age has a lot to do with it. The older one gets, the more the definition of pop music changes and the more the nature of it gets clouded and disfigured. She'll do it do - wanting to just throw all of the cards up into the air and shoot them down in whatever way she feels like. For now, she's going for the distress that still sounds like a bubblegum party, where the garden's blooming and no one's having it too damned bad.