I either hope you’re sitting down for this one or standing up, but with your dancing shoes on. Softly, Dear‘s first album, Portico, was really phenomenal, and they’ve recently released its follow-up, their self-titled sophomore album. I went into this album thinking that it had a lot to live up to and found out rather quickly that these musicians were up for the challenge.
Enter the first track: “It’s Alright”. Way to start with a bang – this is a solid rock track, all the while reassuring their audience that, “Hey kid, the future is bright”. There’s even a glimmering moment where trombone and keys kick in, giving the track a really retro, big band feeling, if but for a second. This song’s energy, message – basically the whole package – make it an excellent introductory song to the album.
“You wake up hopeful or hungover and you can’t tell which one makes you feel the worst.”
The guitar leads into “Same Dream”. It feels a little odd after “It’s Alright” – I mean, I just got all pumped up! Though it feels odd, I see its place as a tone-setter, and as a way to bridge the gap between their debut album and this one. It’s not bad; actually, it’s a really beautiful piece with shimmering flute that works well before the third track. The ambiance of “Same Dream” doesn’t necessarily bring the mood down, it just brings the calm back.
And then, a light acoustic melody floats in. “Things I Say” follows and picks up the tempo with this smooth, folky melody. Tyler’s vocals break in, soon joined by Addie Strei and a gentle drum beat. The instrumentation grows as the track progresses, captivating me more and more each time; Softly, Dear certainly knows how to grab the audience’s attention, and, more importantly, hold onto it. It’s a perfect indie track, carried by Tyler Hart’s heartfelt vocals, and only made better by their lush instrumentation.
Softly, Dear is filled with diverse tracks, ranging from the melancholy back-and-forth of “What Was Wrong” to the nostalgic, lyric-led rock of “A Good Road” to the reflective summer instrumentation of “After”. Each song stands alone without the help of the rest of the album, but combined they’re just all so different while still maintaining an overarching “Softly, Dear”-feel. It’s just all too good.
Following is “Halcyon Days” an ambient, breezy “summer day” kind of instrumental piece, with heavy emphasis on the keys. One (of many) things this outfit is good at translating a perfect summer day into music. Clocking in at 5 minutes long, it’s somehow still not long enough.
It flows into “Amphion”, a less-classical, more distorted ambient piece. Contrasting the aforementioned track, it clocks in at only a minute, but functions as a good transition between “Halcyon Days” and “Alive Now (Paycheck)”.
And then, “Alive Now” just blew me away. The song is light and energetic, filled with gorgeous harmonies, indie shouts, and pop melodies that are so danceable I have a hard time even sitting through the song long enough to write about it. Eventually, it transitions into a poppy guitar solo complete with wood block and synth accompaniment before the tempo slows a touch and all instruments coalesce in one climactic moment.
Closing track, “If I Knew You Then”, is effectively a cool-down from the previous track. Tyler sings, accompanied only by acoustic rhythm guitar and the occasional bass line. Softly, Dear calls back on their folk influences in this piece.
And then… nothing. No more music. Softly, Dear leaves you with the serenity of the waves gently crashing on the shore. The album ends like an exhale.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m really excited about the direction the outfit is heading in. Both albums are really well-written, but in Softly, Dear the outfit really stretches their songwriting and composition capabilities. The result is a textured album with a consistent sound despite a myraid of influences. It’s wholly entertaining and highly recommended. Try a track or two out for yourself above, or better yet, enjoy the album in its entirety. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.