ALBUM REVIEW: SOAK – ‘Before We Forgot How To Dream’

There is a definite Ben Howard vibe to ‘Before We Forgot How To Dream’, the debut album from Derry’s SOAK. By this I don’t just mean that they’d famously both rather be on a board than their own pins, but that they both seem to be trying to eke the same things out of their lyrics and strings. Going for heartfelt, profound song-writing while keeping the music itself experimental and individual is no mean feat but it is possible, and both Howard and SOAK make a valiant effort. Take ‘Small Things’ from Howard’s album ‘I forget Where We Were’; beginning mysterious and outright intriguing, the darkly warping guitar line and slightly distorted vocals compliment his lyrics perfectly. All sounds great right? It is, until a tepid, conventional chorus shakes you out of it and you can’t help but remember your first impression of a floppy dude singing floppy love songs on a beach. The situation is super similar with SOAK. ‘Before We Forgot How To Dream’ (the similarity of the names barely merits comment but here it is) opens with ‘”my brain”’, a jagged collage of samples and undulating sound-waves like the most Blue Hawaii of Blue Hawaii tracks. Silly me thought that an obvious intro track like this might then segue into the next, but instead the experimental turns to the easy-listening and it’s all acoustic guitars and waiflike vocals. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad and it’s often beautiful but like so many before her, SOAK seems to know what she wants but not quite how to get it. Everything feels a little restrained, the lyrics poetic and personal but not quite packing the punch you know that they’re just so close to swinging. Highlights are definitely the single ‘Sea Creatures’, a head-swaying Camera Obscura type jaunt featuring the downright odd lyrics ‘I don’t understand what her problem is, I think she’s just a fish’ and my favourite, ‘Oh Brother’, the track which seems designed to follow ‘”my brain”’ in its muffled melancholia and its showcasing of the power Monds-Watson’s voice too often hides just under its uncertain surface. ‘Before We Forgot How To Dream’ is a good album, no doubt about it, but amidst the calm waters of this album there are currents stirring beneath which when they swell to their potential, could make SOAK truly great.

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