Music

The Softies: Holiday in Rhode Island

Devon Powers

The Softies

Holiday in Rhode Island

Label: K
US Release Date: 2000-09-12
UK Release Date: 2000-10-09
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Sigh. The Softies.

Sometimes, it's so great to know exactly what you're getting in a band. Take the Butthole Surfers, or the Beastie Boys. Names like that don't -- can't -- lie. And we wouldn't want them to.

So, it's fitting that group called The Softies delivers musical pleasantries that dance across themes of introspection, emotional oscillation, seasons of nature and departure. And it's doubtful that an album cover in demure pea-green, donning a proud-breasted robin on a bed of blossoms could deliver anything but lush, spring-like lyrics musical renewals, that not only paint a landscape but also invite you into it. So goes Holiday in Rhode Island -- a holiday in itself, one which is consistently sweet and good.

Therein, you'll be served background music that can jump to the foreground without warning, all in the plain yet poignant articulation of states of personal unrest. The album is laden with careful treatment of the bittersweet, in 14 delicious, precocious permutations. Rose Melberg and Jennifer Sbragia balance each other, gelling sensually in harmonies and clashing sweetly during aptly placed dissonances. And their ability to deliver even the most bleak of lines with near jubilee is Cure-esque: "I wish I could draw a line / Through all of 1999" comes off more like a peppy "la la la" than the opening to the regretful melody, "Just a Day." And "Holiday in Rhode Island," the title track, sounds almost like a memory -- the voices like echos, the guitars and xylophone creating a cosmic effect that's eerily enjoyable. Every song on the album is strong, and likable.

I don't think it's possible for anyone to say anything bad about The Softies. It would be like pulling the wings off a butterfly. For those who aren't immediately warmed and taken in by the cushy vocals and the universal themes, will at least be calmed by the lullaby of their charming and synergetic voices, the tinkle of their xylophones, the paradoxical equilibrium of both laziness and urgency in their songwriting. This album will attract past and present folk and acoustic rock connoisseurs, and anyone who just simply wants a little something pretty.

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