Soak – Grim Town

A procession of lush, gorgeously-crafted pop songs.
Label: Rough Trade
Released: 26th April 2019
Rating: ★★★★

An announcement plays over the distinctive crack, pop and fizz of a beer can opening. A solemn train announcer warns “This train is for the lonely, the disenfranchised… the lost” as the journey sets off for ‘Grim Town’. That title could refer to an imagined location or a state of mind, but either way the Mercury-nominated Bridie Monds-Watson ensures that the journey for her second album is anything but grim with a procession of lush, gorgeously-crafted pop songs.

Whether it is the traumatic memory of overhearing her parents discussing their planned divorce while she pretended to sleep (‘Fall Asleep, Backseat’) or the worries of what an unstable friend could do (‘Déjà Vu’), these are stunningly well-written and evocative moments. ‘Knock Me Off My Feet’ deals with the double-edged sword of life in a town so small that a freedom exists to be able to break the law yet not enough to escape watchful eyes. Equally, much of ‘Grim Town’s landscape is formed on the ashes of dying relationships where the pain still runs raw. But through it all, like a Trojan horse, they are concealed within some of the most beautiful, heart-fluttering pop songs for some time.

Soak may claim to be a work-in-progress on album highlight ‘Life Trainee’, but that progress has seen her journey (both metaphorical and musical) take her sound from out of the bedroom into a widescreen, multi-coloured environment that is perfect for this post-‘Brief Inquiry’ world. As she finds a newly-restored sense of optimism at the album’s close, this is a train ride well worth taking.

Jamie MacMillan

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