There is something strangely comforting and familiar about ‘Nuances,’ the debut from Surrey four-piece Softer Still, released November 9th following the two singles ‘Turtle Bay’ and ‘A Sadder Sound’. The familiarity was apparent as soon as I pressed play, and continued throughout the ten tracks that complete this album.
Softer Still has been compared to the likes of Galaxie 500 and Beach House, and it is safe to see why this comparison has been rendered. With catchy melodic hooks and a certain airiness, this is pop music done well.
The eighties vibe is undeniable and is a factor that added to the overall charm and sophistication of ‘Nuances’, with bass from Ellie O’Shea never being hidden amongst the mix. Instead, it is in your face and there to be heard with clarity, beautifully complimenting the tightness and precision of the drum work.
As soon as ‘Turtle Bay’ began, I instantly thought of ‘Love Cats’ by The Cure. It has that feel to it, and the same amount of playfulness and extremely eighties tone and vision. It must be said, it is a truly jovial track.
Before I realised it, the final track was upon me. This is certainly an album that flies by, but every second is enjoyable with not a single track appearing as filler. I could make hundreds of comparisons to artists of the eighties. Duran Duran, Nik Kershaw and even some bands of recent years such as Hockey or Phoenix.
All of these Artists deliver pop songs with memorable affirming melodies, crystalline synths, and dreamlike thought-provoking vocals. A certain amount of simple elegance is found within the catalogue of these artists. Softer Still is of no exception. They are able to write songs that perfectly encapsulate a time period long since gone, but somehow still here with us.
‘Red Sun’, the latest single, reminded me of ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ by Yes, or at least the first few bars anyway. Minus the distorted guitars. That track was released in ’83. It has a slightly darker tone than the preceding tracks, with more minor chords utilised in the song structure. It is, however, a fantastic single, with some brilliant guitar work played throughout. The synths also sound brilliant. They are never used too much but add a certain progressive element. It is one of the more memorable tracks found in this collection and I can understand its choice for the newest single.
Speaking on the influences of the band Ollie Kitson (Drums, Synths) describes, “I have always had a huge soft spot for any well-written pop song, regardless of genre. All of these things have hugely influenced the way I approach producing and composing music. We love music that is instantly relatable and catchy, something I think is apparent listening to the music we make“.
The vocal work from lead vocalist Grant Williams is perfectly suited to the music on offer here. His voice beautifully matches the elegance and beauty from the instrumentation and blends well with the harmony work utilised. This adds so much more refinement and polish, while also adding a certain amount of complexity and vulnerability.
I found myself coming back to the track ‘Wishing Well,’ personally my favourite of these ten tracks. It is one of those special tracks where everything just comes together perfectly and fails to let go of your subconscious. Beautifully harmonised vocals, a fantastic chorus, and mesmerising guitar work.
This is a fantastic debut in every sense and deserves to be checked out.
Softer Still embark on their own UK headline tour in November and full dates can be found on their website.