DIY has a distinctly punk ring to it, but when you think of all the solo musicians playing all sorts of styles out there, it becomes a broader blanket term. Melanie Valera started a few bands in Bordeaux, France, in the '90s but by 2003 went solo and started Tender Forever. In just two years she outgrew southwestern France and wound up in Olympia, Wash., on K Records, home to heavy hitters like Atlas Sound and Mirah.
Tender Forever follows Imogen Heap's penchant for vocal layering and experimenting. The backing tracks get synth-heavy and rhythmically daring, like those found on Xiu Xiu's Knife Play. Which means Valera's occasionally juggling too much at once and trying to capture all her cultural influences in one go. It gets messy, if just by one or two too many layers.
2010's No Snare is filled with darker orchestral sounds that capture a trip to Wonderland with an eloquent Alice. Valera's 2011 EP, Where Are We From, takes that emotive formula and adds a sense of urgency. Compared with her older stuff, which was super fun and upbeat, Tender Forever proves the sun really never shines in the Northwest, though it still turns out good experimental pop.
Tender Forever plays Zoo City Apparel Thu., August 2, at 8 PM. $6.