SOAK – Before We Forgot How To Dream – Review
SOAK is Bridie Monds-Watson of Derry. Her debut album, Before We Forgot How To Dream, follows two 2012 EP releases, Sea Creatures and Trains. Though her musical abilities and capabilities have improved since, the seriousness that she brings to her music was as evident then as it is now and, listening then, you would have had to hope for an album like this to eventually appear. The style that developed out of her talent is her own; influences and comparisons are varied, so much that the combination of her songwriting and the meandering, although sometimes inoffensive, production results in noticeably driven music. The singles released off it were ‘Sea Creatures’, ‘B a Nobody’, and ‘Blud’, a 2 minute 45 second jaunt that ends up showing off a distracted yet feel-good tone. Tracks deal with group and personal experiences, perspectives revolving around relationships, some inescapable truths and, often, epiphany.
It’s relevant to this album that its writer is 19 years old. It refers to the experiences of adolescence and young adulthood quite a lot and in general makes use of realisations and remembrances of decisions made, reasons and consequences, relationships and self-awareness in lyrical content, creating tracks of moods ranging from lively to melancholy and to stridingly confident. There’s confidence written on her singing, her unmodified emphasis and dreamlike tone. Her voice is often far and away, aloof. In ‘Hailstones don’t Hurt’, for example, the vocal melody in the beginning is almost lost under hazy diction but is resolved superbly by the production; as with other parts of the album, it explains itself. This is, by the way, one of the strongest songs on the album – it builds and sways around the singer’s meditations. Her vocals can be extremely soulful and introspective, we repeatedly feel meditative while listening. The tracks often surprise in one way or another, whether subverting an expected end to a melody or introducing the track in question in one way before becoming something else entirely. For example, ‘Garden’ opens with a breathy foreshadowing of the main melody. Before the initial few bars break into the tune proper, there is a pause composed of staccato notes followed by bluesy offbeats that would suggest an entirely different type of track was to follow. This, to me at least, suggests that there’s an awareness of the to-be-perceived image of the album going on; there’s another level of reflexivity in the songwriting. Similarly, there’s an awareness of the foolishness and melodrama contained within being a teenager, having those experiences. The message that the album is trying to convey must jump between these limits, which it manages to do satisfactorily. ’24 Windowed House’, falling halfway through the album, rises and stomps its way to a crescendo. There’s this combination of what sounds like a snare brush and floor tom hit that mesmerises and the climax features a dubby snare echo that takes the listener out of the track enough to listen to the whole.
It’s easy to forget with the electronic interpolations and often-innovative structures that some of the songs on the album are basic indie-folk compositions, although flavoured with personal style and technique, resulting in layered creations, fresh and familiar. SOAK takes her music as seriously as teenage life takes itself, with added awareness. The melodrama that gets mentioned in talking about the album’s fixations is precisely the experience itself. ‘Reckless Behaviour’ is a good example, probably the liveliest and loudest track: befitting a song about how to spend your night, it’s sometimes twee pop and indie folk, and sounds overbearing compared to the dulcet range of the other tracks. What it is is well-explained by the position set out by the work as a whole, particularly its knowledge of itself, its own failings regardless of reality, and coming to terms with that knowledge, much the same as with growing up. There are seriously addictive tracks on this album, and not only the singles. Though sometimes immature and usually self-interested, there is depth and complexity to its adolescence which must reflect its writer’s ideas. A really developing and interesting listening that grew for me with every play.
Review by Luke Etherton