There’s something special about songs that use poppy melodies to handle heavy subject matter. That’s the route that Reina del Cid takes on her new album, Rerun City, and it makes for a pretty terrific eight-track journey.
Del Cid, of Minneapolis, didn’t create the technique, of course. Classic country-and-western music is filled with such songs. Like Ray Price’s “Invitation to the Blues,” which bounces along at such a carefree pace that you don’t realize at first that the song’s about a guy getting his heart ripped out of his chest by the woman he loves. Del Cid heard songs like that while growing up in Fargo, N.D., and it’s from where she draws her love of the method.
“I grew up listening to classic country music,” she tells City Paper by phone. “That’s the legacy of that sort of music. Heavy, dark themes dressed up in a sunny package.
“On my last record, The Cooling, the title track is about realizing you’re dead, but still walking around in life. It’s a dark theme, but the music doesn’t match, and I feel like it creates this great sense of tension.”
On Rerun City, “Queen Hazel” deals with heroin addiction, but the melody does a good job at concealing the dark subject matter, until that moment when it clicks that this isn’t a song about a fairy-tale maiden.
Rerun City also marks a sonic departure for del Cid, who along with her band, hit The Smiling Moose on Feb. 19. On this record, she makes the full transition from more of a folk-rock sound to pretty, pure pop-rock, a genre she began flirting with on The Cooling. That transition is aided by del Cid’s lead guitarist, Toni Lindgren. Her presence is felt throughout Rerun City and she may be one of the best guitarists you haven’t heard of yet.
Del Cid is a talented songwriter and that undoubtedly stems from being a gifted storyteller. She was an English major who once saw her career path leading more toward literature professor than singer-songwriter. But that background shows in her lyrics.
“I’ve always found it’s hard to write an autobiographical song,” she says. “I always end up writing about other people’s experiences, and that has to do with my background in literature.
“I’ve always thought of myself as more of a storyteller than a confessional writer.”