Midnight conversations

The untouchable melancholy of the Susie Garcia Orchestra

By Rev. Adam McKinney on October 22, 2015

The idea of the chanteuse is one that has held its status in pop music, even if everything else about pop has been transformed by time. While the roles portrayed by strong women in music have evolved over time, the chanteuse remains a powerful figure, as comfortable in a smoky nightclub as in an arena or a basement venue. As an iconic archetype, the chanteuse is untouchable, supremely confident in a sea of admirers who could never hope to be any bit as affecting as she is. It's a wonderful feeling - this feeling of being in awe and admiration of a performer, all the while feeling fundamental intimidation.

It's because of this that Susie Garcia can come across as classical and innovative. When performing with her accompanying three-piece, which she calls her orchestra, Susie Garcia manufactures a kind of ethereal electro-pop that glides underneath her airy vocals.

There's a moodiness to the Susie Garcia Orchestra's music, but it comes with a tender throbbing of the heart. Songs like "When I Fall," which sounds like a particularly melancholy Smiths song, is both pleading and strong, with Garcia asking her lover how devoted they are to her. It's never implied that she can't live without theobject of her desire, rather that she needs to make sure that she's supported. If she's not, then she might be better off alone. All the while, twinkling pianos accompany her, creating the mood of a bittersweet midnight conversation.

Garcia never seems anything other than in complete control of her band and herself. Even with all of this cool detachment, the Susie Garcia Orchestra is always full of deeply felt heartache, making for the type of chanteuse who effortlessly commands her audience while also being forward enough to reveal bits of herself in the process. Like Peggy Lee, Garcia seems like the type of woman who could beat you to a pulp, but could also revel in her own desires and shortcomings. It's a cocktail that cuts straight through the din of machismo and artifice in popular music. Even though Garcia isn't exactly in charge of an orchestra, she always seems completely in charge.

New Frontier Lounge, w/ Devil on a Leash, Waux Erekt, Friday, Oct. 23, 9 p.m., $5, 301 E. 25th St., Tacoma, 253.572.4020