Softlightes may still be Modular’s ‘07 Big Hope, but last year’s digital-only EP Heart Made of Sound failed to gather the necessary momentum over in blogdom to generate a whole heap of buzz for their February debut long-player. Why is that? For starters, and banally, fall may not be the best time for a breezy SoCal/Postal Service-style electropop group to drop its warmth over a mostly chilly listening audience. But probably more of it has to do with the lack of bite in the songs themselves: “Heart Made of Sound” is all warm synths and U2 guitar jangle, and relies too much on the electronic decoration to the exclusion of strong craftsmanship. Choruses never reach Postal Service’s level of melodrama, or Decoder Ring’s densely textured climaxes; rather, Softlightes rely on tinkling loops of electronica or a brief whorl of strings, and it’s just not the same. The best thing on the disc may be Lo-Fi-Fnk’s remix of “Girlkillsbear” (although the original has its low-fi charms, too)—which ups the inventiveness with a stuttering ba-ba-ba a cappella background slightly reminiscent of the last track off Shout Out Out Out Out’s debut. As the track progresses it fills itself out into irresistible electro funk, with shouted interpolations and a strong beat; and when we get to the line “As for me I’d rather dance, dance, dance” you realise that so far, Softlightes on their own are only halfway there. Still, keep an eye out for Say No to Being Cool, Say Yes to Being Happy—it could yet prove an effective addition to a genre that hasn’t shown much innovation of late.
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// Notes from the Road
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