I woke up to a brisk 48 degree morning. I suppose this officially means that October has arrived and replaced the warm weather with warmer wardrobes and autumn drinks. Bringing back the summer nostalgia, however, is as easy as listening to Eau Claire outfit Softly, Dear. In summer of 2012, a group of college friends joined forces to form the band. Portico is the debut effort from these Wisconsinites, and it kicks ass from square one.
Softly, Dear re-released the EP on cassette at Lost City Music Festival at the beginning of August. It’s no wonder it sold out originally, prompting the re-release. Strewn with vocal harmonies and gentle guitar melodies, Portico is instantly satisfying, and somehow nostalgic. The outfit crafts crisp songs with on-point vocals and steady drums.
The EP opens with “Portico”, a quick ambient introduction that inspires a breezy, summer mindset. It’s a perfect lead in to “Better Times”, which then kicks the album into gear.
A few tracks deep, Portico slows down; it’s like the album is preparing me for my favorite song to begin, creating suspense. With one snap of the drum, “Know My Name” becomes my favorite track on the album. Here, the energy returns with a confident chorus, lyrics aside. Softly, Dear shows great restraint during the verses; only a light acoustic strum and solemn drum beat accompany the vocals. But when the chorus hits, the energy does, too.
The album ends with “Sleep It Off”. This track builds so wonderfully, like a summer day with a light rain. The conclusion is electric, literally and figuratively.
Portico shines its juxtaposition of melancholy lyrics and upbeat tunes. The cheery feel offsets the content at first listen, but then compliments the content as you become familiar. Portico is not lacking in infectious hooks. Nor is it lacking in sweet guitar solos or rich harmonies. Overflowing with lovely pieces, this album is an excellent reminder that more than Bon Iver comes from Eau Claire.
All in all, Portico is a relaxing and catchy album. The album is part melancholy lyricism and part summer grooves, balancing the tone so it is neither too poppy nor too heavy. Softly, Dear’s charming and melodic indie album is enjoyable from start to finish. As summer rolls to an end, it’s nice to have albums like Portico to play as a reminder.