SOAK - Grim Town - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

SOAK - Grim Town

by Jim Cunnar Rating:7 Release Date:2019-04-26
SOAK - Grim Town
SOAK - Grim Town

Grim Town, the sophomore effort by Northern Ireland singer-songwriter SOAK (Bridie Monds-Watson), nicely avoids the pitfalls of a sophomore effort.  It’s been four years since the release of her critically acclaimed (and Mercury Prize nominated) debut Before We Forgot How To Dream, spacing which is a bit extreme from debut to follow up, but time in which SOAK used to craft a strong album which highlights her growth as a songwriter without losing the vulnerability of her messages.

“all aboard” sets the tone for the listen; a distorted Wurlitzer overlaid by announcements from none other than Bridie’s grandfather. “This train is for the following categories of passenger only: recipients of universal credit or minimum wage, the lonely, the disenfranchised, the disillusioned, the lost…Travelers will be required to disembark and travel on their knees from this point… there will be no compensation for any inconvenience”.  Once the niceties are disposed of, the journey begins.

Opener “Everybody Loves You” is a perfect opener for the album, with SOAKs voice overlaying drony synthesizers. “Cuz I was built from concrete, cuz I don’t hurt no more, cuz I’ve been getting no sleep, what’s it all for?” lays the foundation for the first two minutes of the song, when it abruptly transitions into an early 70s Harry Nilsson-esque upbeat ballad.  It is strange and weird, but it works and makes the track memorable.

“Deja Vu” is the strongest track on the album, a complex layered gem of electronic beats, synths, and effects. “Now every light in front of me, a neon light catastrophe, an unexpected emergency” puts the listener smack dab in the middle of a rainy metropolis night, spinning around a light pole à la Gene Kelly. 

“Knock Me Off My Feet” is airy, upbeat and silly, a perfect song for transitioning out of our winter hibernation to the warming days of spring.  “You can again, knock me off my feet, but I won’t stop now, you can take a seat” may ring a bit silly, but comes off more motivational than cheeky.

Penultimate song “Missed Calls” is the most intimate and heart wrenching of the tracks.  It showcases Monds-Watson’s pitch-perfect voice, making the listener want to wrap their arms around her in a tight squeeze.  It’s gorgeous.  

At 15 tracks, Grim Town runs a bit long in the tooth, despite a lack of weakness in any of the tracks.  Poppy songs alternate with softer vocal-focused ballads in a way that makes Grim Town play a bit like the soundtrack for the sequel to 500 Days Of Summer.  Putting four or five of the tracks on an accompanying EP would make Grim Town a much stronger album by making it less predictable.

As singer-songwriters go, SOAK has proved her debut was no fluke.  Grim Town is a solid effort, one well worth putting into your listening rotation for 2019. 

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