West Coast vs East Coast. It happened with rap in the 90s, it happened with The Avengers (West Coast > East Coast) and it seems to happen with this new surge of 80’s influenced electronica. Whereas the bands from New York (and its five boroughs) are heavy on the gloomy, dark sounds of a gritty citty, the West Coast, with all the cocktails and sleazy glitz, sounds slightly more colourful, even vibrant and optimistic.
Soft Swells self-titled album seems to be clearly wearing Hang ten clothing while giving you some wolf rock tracks in sheepy pop clothing. Even if the two opening tracks, ‘Every little thing’ and ‘Overrated’ feel slightly mechanical, there’s that touch of guitar that grounds you in reality. Takes away some of that otherwordly, cybernetic touch, sometimes menacing, sometimes a little more tender and twee (tweender!).
It’s just a preparation to what follows.
‘Put it on the line’ does sport that 80’s electronica, but with more of a gothic edge. Now it’s the time for the guitar lines to shine and push all other notes around, give a bit of an edge to the flavoursome stew that’s been concocted by Soft Swells. Slowly but surely, it becomes evident that there will be quite a bit of guitar in this album, possibly booting that argument that guitar music is dead (it isn’t).
‘Shake it off’ feels very The Cars and ‘Don’t cut it off’ would feel right at home at any Indie rock album that has been released in the past 2 or 3 years. Ditto for ‘Never leave home’, the energetic ditty that just fills you with pep and optimism. The build up is sheer beauty. Can’t keep a frown after listening to this one.
Although ‘Lifeboats’ and ‘Make it go away’ do keep up that firm optimism, it does crash down with ‘Decisions’. Just like the overbearing sensation of worry you get in real life about important decisions, the song seems to convey this. Interesting choice of album closer and if you have it on repeat, it clashes completely with the rather optimistic intro of ‘Every little thing’.
Pretty good album for lovers of indie pop with a hint of electronic shenanigans.