I came across Softer Still whilst searching for new UK based dreampop acts, because of some event that might take place in the future. No, I’m not telling you yet. There are obviously many similar acts emerging right now: in 2015 everybody was still busy trying to nail the classic shoegaze sound, but since last year the sound of The Sundays and the Smiths seem to be coming back with a vengeance. The new trend seems to be verging away from noise and more towards softer jangly dreampop with ever so slight dabs of electro. There are literally tons of bands making the same sort of sound right now, but only a few really pull it off. As mentioned before, the Oakland scene ( Hazel English, Day Wave, Crafts Spells) seems to be one that delivers outstanding acts in this genre but the UK seems to be finally hooking on as well. Softer Still are a fine example of that: they are a jangle dreampop band from Surrey consisting of Grant Williams (lead vocals/Guitar), Ellie O’Shea (backing vocals/Bass), Alexander Williams (Guitar), and Ollie Kitson (Drums), who produce all of their material in their own garage studio.
Softer Still have been attracting a bit of attention lately from the the music press, blogs and even bands like shoegaze outfit DIIV, who invited Softer Still to support them at London’s Electric Ballroom. The band released the singles “Bliss” and “NewAge” last summer and “Eulogy” at the end of last year. These 3 singles were assembled together with the track “Company” into their debut EP that was launched on the 9th of December in The Old Blue Last in London. I know , I know, I am a bit late, but still…:
Softer Still EP:
“Eulogy” kicks off with an intro that leads me to believe that i’m about to start listening to China Crisis’ “Christian” but I am fooled. The track rolls into a jangly upbeat poptune with breathy male vocals, assisted occasionally by specks of equally whispery female ones: a bit like the balance of the vocals in Prefab Sprout. Only, in this case, I somehow end up feeling the female ones should be a bit more prominent. It’s dead catchy though…I find myself singing along after a 2nd listen. All of it is drenched in a haze of reverberating guitars and swooning synths. Could one possibly feel depressed listening to this? no….
I already referred to some 80’s bands, which might be odd for a band with a seemingly contemporary sound, but hearing “New Age” the influence is unmistakable: echoes of Prefab Sprout’s “Cars and Girls” are all over the verses of this song, which, of course, I don’t mind in the slightest. And that’s an understatement. So think dreampop Prefab Sprout and you get the drift…The song takes us to a different plane, high above the clouds, where the sun warms our bones and the sky is ever-blue: a New Age…
As mentioned earlier, The Sundays are re-appreciated these days and “Bliss” seems to full of sweet memories of them but also contains traces of the Cure. Again, it’s a gentle, beautiful, escapist daydream with a nudge to melancholy and dwelling on the past. Breezy, lulling, new wave base, angelic voices and some freaky, ethereal sound effects! Love it!
Another 80’s band that Softer Still actually has supported last year were The Railway Children and that is something I do detect in the song “Company’ which is an outstanding piece of quality jangle pop, heavily reminiscent of the indie-pop vibes of the Sarah Records era. It’s subtle but effective, gentle but catchy… Seriously, this music is like falling into iridescent, billowy ( thanks Scott!) clouds engulfed by eternal sunlight. Sounds good to me!