Turns Out I’d Probably Prefer it Hard
This is a really, really, really… really… really lovely album…
As I’ve previously explained, there are two things that you must not under any circumstances do as a musical artist, as either direction quickly leads you down the path of obsolescence, of fan hatred or, more often, both.
- Firstly, you have to constantly update and evolve your sound. If fans suspect that you’re not making enough progression between albums than you’ll quickly be tossed on the scrapheap as an obvious one trick pony emperor with no clothes*
- Secondally, you must never change your music or make significant alterartions to the way you sound: people hate change, and if your new record doesn’t sound exactly like your last then your fanbase will feel like it’s been betrayed, you’ll forever be known as the act that used to be good, before they went far too pop/rock/dance/country/gypsy folk/emo/Baby Metal and all the sheeps started liking them. Sure, you can try and recreate the sound of that last LP later in your career, but everyone will see through that as an offensively blatant reach for their approval, and somehow hate you even more, and this record you release will universally decreed as being the lamest album ever!!
To recount: change is essential, but also the worst thing you could possibly do
‘Soft Sounds…’ is aptly named (so probably deserves a +1), as it pretty much throws out all of the excitingly bratty Bikini Kill influenced psychopomp that was promised in that album’s title (she don’t half love her appropriate record titles +1), it was bursting at the seems with genial bubblegum rock switching near the album’s end for more introspective sweeness. I said at the time that it was ‘an absolutely charming album, perhaps one of the few records released in 2016 that I would confidently predict would be adored by literally everyone who heard it. I strongly stand by that claim: go listen to ‘Psychopomp’ now. Go on, do it. It’s 25 minutes, you lazy pricks, just do it
Finished? Don’t you feel like a much better person now!? Isn’t life jut so much more tolerable?! Put down that blade, suicide may no longer be the best option!
‘Soft Sounds…’, however, finds Michelle Zauner (yeah, I Googled her real name, that’s how serious I’m taking this!) daring to Blazin’ Squad flip-reverse her sound, producing a mainly electronic and borderline ambient at times. It’s frequently absolutely beautiful, and takes her sound to new places you never would have previously associated with her nor thought her capable of.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous album, taking cues from the best dreampop and shoegaze sounds. It far too often sways into forgettable ambient sonics but the musicianship and way around a melody always shines through. The sad thing is that I would rate it much higher if it was from an artist I’d never previously heard, and would have no further context to place it within.
Unfortunately… I feel myself falling into the same trap of those second fan: I kinda just wanted her to release ‘Psychopomp 2’, and maybe only experience obvious artistic growth in the fact there are now four bangers on the level of Everybody Wants to Love You** (if anything underrated in being named (kayfabe) last year’s 20th best song). I was desperately wanting more off-kilter and experimental rockers like 12 Steps, which Waxahatchee would kill to slip into her next records
This isn’t like my problems with the Tove Lo latest, where I worry she’s making changes to her sounds in a misguided attempt to garner widespread approval, there’s the undeniably delightful air around ‘Soft Sounds…’ that this is an artist making exactly the record she wants to! Zauner’s voice feels so liberated and satisfied with the product she’s created. This is exactly what she wanted to create, and there’s more than a healthy chance it’ll be a record that you find yourself able to form intense emotional bonds with. There’s an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and love hanging over this album, which can very easily overcome you
Zauner released her debut as Japanese Breakfast last year, and has already followed up with this outstandingly diverse piece. She may well blossom into one of our most interesting and significant artists
Age of Act: 28 (-6)
Album Length: 37 minutes (+9)
Very Good Songs: 6 (+12)
Brilliant Songs: 3 (+15)
AMAZING Songs: 0
% of Album Worthwhile: 75
It’s… fine… I suppose…
Previous Entries: 2016 No.57
Yeah, bollocks, I’ve been forgetting to do this one too. Lucky for Jappy-Brekky (that’s… is that racist… I think that might be racist…) because I feel she needs the points
*Wait… so… the pony’s the empower in that analogy?? Well, the people of that particular imperial realm were always likely to turn against it given the fact that the ascension of equine heads of state throughout history are never widely celebrated
Sigh, yeah, I guess I did say their name…
**Bollocks, there’ve been barely any songs released in 2017 as wonderful as that…