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Soft Speaker

I'll Tend Your Garden

(Forty Acres; US: 11 Apr 2011; UK: 20 Mar 2011)

Surprisingly satisfying set of tunes on album #3

Guitar-centric rockers Soft Speaker’s third full-length album in three years, I’ll Tend Your Garden, is surprisingly good at times and a bit flaccid at others. Bursting forth with a squall of wah-wah pedal and distortion, “Hawk Mountain Line” is a case study in little sonic revelations, with variations of dynamics and phrasing transforming what could have been a generic rocker into something genuinely unexpected. Follow-up tune “Three Beggars” starts like a crashing rocker before morphing into something irresistibly funky, with a slithering bass line underpinning dueling guitar screeching that could go on for days. Not all songs are so successful, though. “Find the Fountain” just plods along, while “Penny, Wait For Me” reveals the limitations of the vocalist. Despite this, there is far more good than bad on this record, like the seven-minute “For a Handsome Price”—with its power-drill guitars, it’s the closest thing to a back-to-basics track this record offers. This inventive band is clearly not satisfied with sticking to formulaic rock cliches. They may not be the next big thing, but they’re certainly worth a listen. File under: “Keep An Eye On These Guys”.


DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.

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