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Portland, Oregon’s SOFT KILL, ripped through 2016 with their first release on Profound Lore Records ‘Choke’, the follow up to 2015’s ‘Heresy’ became the band’s most acclaimed LP to date and saw the band on a constant touring cycle in support of it through North America and Europe as demand for the band was on a constant upswing. SOFT KILL now return with the triumphant follow up full length Savior to be released by Profound Lore Records on 5/11/18, bringing their unique blend of gloom, laced with pop charm and flawless song writing that transcends the post punk genre.
The writing for Savior was sparked while returning from tour, frontman Tobias Grave’s wife began to bleed out in the van, at eight months pregnant they were in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road far from a medical facility. The band raced through the night landing at the emergency room of UC Davis Trauma Center in Sacramento where surgery was performed to save both the mother and unborn child. Although the surgery went well, baby Dominick’s lung collapsed on his second day of life causing him to flat line. Grave was forced to standby and watch as the doctors and nurses struggled to keep his newborn child alive with blood transfusions, breathing and feeding tubes. As days turned into weeks, stranded far from home, standing vigil, he purchased a guitar, borrowed a bass from a friend and began to write songs that eventually would become the core of Savior. Grave wrote songs about losing his son, his battle with drug addiction, the many tragedies that came along with that life, and the empty space suspended between mourning and celebration, life and death.
With Savior, recorded/mixed in Kingsize Sudios in Los Angeles and produced by Benjamin Greenberg (Uniform, The Men, Algiers) SOFT KILL have matured into a powerhouse, effortlessly combining genres, always with Grave’s powerful, raw emotional storytelling where we see a person come to grips with their own reflection as seen in the eyes of their dying son. From the pop perfection of “Trying Not to Die” to the swelling and crushing guitars on “Hard Candy” to the unrelenting dirge of “Bunny Room”, Savior is a creative tour de force. Drawing from a diverse musical palette, Savior is influenced by early U2, Gun Club, The Replacements and a requiem to Tom Petty.
Tamaryn has been crafting gothic dreampop and soaring shoegaze records for the better part of a decade. With each subsequent release she has both expanded her sonic palette and playfully deconstructed it, the project itself an iconoclastic exploration involving a variety of collaborators and genre-melding that has spanned three previous albums, an EP and a handful of singles. While 2015’s lush Cranekiss marked a synth-inflected left turn for the artist, Dreaming the Dark pushes her sound even further. It’s simultaneously her hardest, darkest record and still somehow her most accessible, landing squarely in the sweet spot between between pop and post-punk.
Produced by and co-written with Jorge Elbrecht (Ariel Pink, Frankie Rose, Wild Nothing, Gang Gang Dance), the nine tracks on Dreaming the Dark represent an emotional and aesthetic evolution, the front and center guitar washes and foggy ennui of her earlier records giving way to crystalline beats, synths and lyrical narratives aimed directly at the jugular. While the record still occasionally mines a 4AD-adjacent musical palette—all manner of Cocteau Twins gauze, her Kate Bush meets Tears for Fears level vocality and melodic guitar lines that might have swirled off of a mid-80’s Cure record—Dreaming also pack a hefty emotional wallop. The album flirts with the aesthetics of classic 80’s synthpop while playing at the fringes of hip hop production and forward-thinking electronica.
Opening track “Angels of Sweat,” a dynamic bit of synthpop that unspools with the kind of effervescent quality of a classic Simple Minds single, establishes the album’s soaring emotional timbre— “Embrace your desire, Lived so many lives, It’s already night.” While elsewhere, tracks like “Paranoia IV” and “Victim Complex” (“When you hurt me, the scream is for everyone…”) split the difference between the staccato of late 80’s Wax Trax and the undeniable pop dazzle of early Depeche Mode singles. Elsewhere, “Terrified” and “The Jealous Kind” play like long-lost singles of the 120 Minutes era, the latter equal parts Cyndi Lauper and Book of Love.
Though the musical references on Dreaming the Dark are undeniable for anyone who may have come of age worshipping at the altars of NIN or Strawberry Switchblade, like all of Tamaryn’s previous releases, it’s a record that fully transcends it’s inspirations. In addition to unspooling like a collection of nine standalone singles, it’s easily the most emotionally astute and fully-throated collection of songs she has ever released, both figuratively and literally. “Fits of Rage” and “Angels of Sweat” not only show off the power and range of her voice—via a healthy dose of punk-appropriate howls—they also represent a kind of deepening emotional maturity that informs all of the best parts of Dreaming the Dark. Whether it be understanding painful relationships, unpacking troubled sexual dynamics or coming to terms with the loss of a cherished friend, the album presents a hard-earned way forward. It’s a state of being most clearly articulated on “Path to Love” - a song that might very well serve as the record’s still-beating heart: “I’m choosing a path that leads to love, I’m taking what’s mine and giving it up.” Light, dark, and light again, the Dreaming the Dark peers into the darkness and asks the age old question, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” The correct answer is always both.
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