Review: Conrad Merced – ‘Tender Beats’



A singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer based out of Chicago, IL, Conrad Merced was born into a musical family. At the young age of thirteen, he started playing music in bands, setting a path that led him to become the frontman for The Red Jacket and shoegaze, electronic duo Shoplifter, as well as finding success with his music featured in films, podcasts and various music compilations. A talent on the rise, Conrad was on a set for greatness, but at the height of his success, he abruptly stopped writing and playing music altogether.


It wasn’t until the tragic and unexpected death of his mother that Conrad picked up his guitar again, bringing to a close a decade long hiatus. The collection of lush new songs eventually laid down the foundation for the release of ‘Tender Beats’, Conrad’s comeback album. Recorded with the help of engineer Rick Riggs at Handwritten Recording Studio, ‘Tender Beats’ evolved from an emotive folk album into something more expansive, bringing into the fold a deft series of orchestral instruments, vintage synthesizers and electronic drum machines to create a genre-bending experience that accentuates Conrad’s passionate melodies and thoughtful lyrics.


A reflective and highly-personal release, the album deals primarily with the loss and death of a loved one, capturing the emotion and pain of those moments with heart-breaking clarity. Backed by catchy finger-style acoustic guitar that underpins the dark, atmospheric nature, it’s a calculated maelstrom of digital textures and drum machines that rises to create a unique blend of ambient electronic-folk.


A beautiful album of textured acoustic elements and slow, melancholic percussion, ‘Tender Beats’ is an expansive release stitched together from layered layered vocals, engaging melodies, and organic production, bringing to the fore a soft, evocative sound that is simply impossible to resist.



Emotionally charged and delicately poignant, ‘Tender Beats’ is an impressive collection that offers reflections on ageing, overcoming writer’s block, breaking up, falling in love, and a wondrous, nostalgic piece about growing up in the 90’s to immigrant parents. It’s a personal album that brings to life universal, wonderfully relatable themes, creating it’s own moving world from waves of soft vocals and paced evolving melodies. A welcome return to music for Conrad, ‘Tender Beats’ is a cathartic triumph.


Score: 9/10


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