Al Pash Reviews SOAK’s “Grim Town”

Al Pash Reviews SOAK’s “Grim Town”

 

Northern Ireland native, SOAK, started moving tides and making waves in the modern indie-folk scene after the release of her first studio album in 2015. To say that project was well-received would not only be an injustice to her work, but also this decade’s most hideous understatement. Back with her second studio album, “Grim Town”, she has shattered the bar that she set herself, leaving us with, what Al Pash deems “album of the year.” 

 

When we listen through an albums entirety, there is an internal acknowledgment made that validates the perfection of the project, placing it at the top of our own curated musical chart. It is absolutely apparent that singer/songwriter, Bridie Monds-Watson, has achieved this musical anomaly with her second studio album, Grim Town. Bridie, who takes the stage name SOAK, incorporates all the necessary musical elements needed to create a masterpiece of this stature. Her innovative lyrics give cliche’d statements new life and meaning, while diversified instrumentation instigates begging ears and intrigued minds. She sings poetry over her folk-influenced arrangements, describing personal anecdotes that resonate deep amongst listeners. Messages of self-acceptance, self-reflection, conditions of friendship, lost and unrequited love- all typical topics, but seen from a new perspective.

 

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“All Aboard” fore-plays the first track, as a train conductor’s voice is heard professing discriminating guidelines that must be adhered to by all passengers if they plan to stay and ride. Although the initial tone seems somber and depressing, the album eventually comes full circle, but only after exercising stories of struggle and introspection.

The first tune off the album, “Everybody Loves You”, which is already approaching 4 million Spotify streams, addresses an individual and relationship SOAK has apparently moved past, stating “Everybody wants you/ Not me today, ’cause i’m done.” What appears to be a message of closure, reveals itself more as a hope-filled front with lyrics concluding “Everybody loves you, and I do too.” This tune introduces a common theme across the album; the difficulties of reconciling the ending of a relationship, or perhaps a relationship that never had a chance to bloom.

 

SOAK - Everybody Loves You (Official Video)

 

The track “Maybe” continues this theme, expressing “Maybe it’s defeat…at least I’m a past your eyes still see.” Although the lyrical content is upsetting, the tempo and playful horns do not reflect such feelings. Many of the ablum’s tracks follow this suite, juxtaposing the lyrical content and sonic elements. We see this demonstrated in “I was blue, Technicolour Too.” The strum of an imperfectly tuned guitar transitions to a relaxing, beach-y groove placing the listener on an ocean coast of contemplation, recalling an underwhelming party that only reminded the artist of the person she guilt-fully longs for. This track is home to one of my favorite lyrical metaphors on the album: “He was chewing his jaw I saw his mouth as a treadmill/ And boasts that he knows the best tune.” This is a perfect example of Monds-Watson’s inventive lyricism, describing a typical boy running his mouth; ingenious.

The tune “Fall Asleep/ Backseat” strays from the themes illustrated above, describing a personal struggle with what appears to be her parents divorce. The lyric “I fall asleep in the backseat” brings listeners back to childhood, as we all recall our lack of autonomy during those formative years. Taking this perspective, SOAK professes “Double Christmas/ Make up for the year just passed/ One car, in our drive/ Do the neighbors theorize our lives?” Although this song covers a misfortune that many of us experience, it breaks up the repetition of the anecdotes described in the other tunes. It adds another level of depth and humanism to the empirical struggles she faces, as well as illustrates an episode that is familiar to the greater majority. Without running the risk of over exemplifying her magical lyricism, there are just some lines that cannot be left unaddressed. This tune’s lyrical gem reads “An eyelash, kayaks/ The rapids of my cheek”- personification at it’s finest. 

photo by: Marieke Macklon

photo by: Marieke Macklon

Both tracks Deja Vu” and Scrapyardintroduce another relatable life struggle, depicting the fear and concern that arrises within the loved ones of someone fighting a battle of substance abuse. In this case, SOAK is sympathetically frustrated with the decisions and actions of a loved one lyricising “You’ve been drinking again/ Crashed the car and you blamed the rain/ Don’t you think that you’re better than that?” This shares a similar lyrical sentiment with “Scrapyard” which sings “So I heard you crashed the car/ Dodging a rodent/ My friends saw you at the bar/ How long must we do this?” The track’s echoing vocals decorate the sonic panoramic, while the bass line drives the tempo, both serving as elements that contrast the singers saddened disposition.

It is apparent that SOAK has established herself as quite the lyrical avant-garde, but sonically, Grim Town is truly a musical emporium. Throw on the track “Valentine Shmalentine” if you are craving a rainy afternoon at a Parisian coffeeshop, or perhaps you fancy the final few dances of an 80’s senior prom, which in that case, “Life Trainee” will do the trick. With “YBFTBYT” you can almost taste your cotton-mouthed tongue scraping the roof of your mouth, which has been dried by the selfishness displayed by another. Each song like a novel chamber of expression and understanding.

Source: soakmusic.co.uk

Source: soakmusic.co.uk

My advise to you, the listener, is to really delve into these lyrics. Read them while you listen, and absorb the emotions SOAK scribes so cleverly. Many albums that ring messages of self-doubt or hopeless romanticism predispose themselves to negativity and pessimism, which can be so difficult to listen to when you have a strong internal drive for change. SOAK has the ability to share these messages, but with resolutions that cause ripples of optimism; she writes “Let’s be honest, I’m a work in progress/ But I’ll solve it.” Her conviction to self-rectification, throughout life’s many struggles is what carries the torch of hope to her listeners. She is a pioneer in self-betterment, and has clearly found her tool of choice; music.

Score: Album of the year. I dare you to prove me wrong.

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