I’ve been contributing articles for Volume One for the past couple of years. One of the first ones I wrote covered the emergence of a new band from the Eau Claire area called Softly, Dear (New on the Scene). Back then, Softly, Dear was just starting to figure out who they were musically. Even though the first tracks they released were a little rough, I could certainly here some significant talent and creativity at work.
After writing that piece for V1, I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the band for a while. And then I saw them play at the House of Rock at Adelyn Rose’s CD release show back in February of this year. Toward the beginning of their set, they mentioned that their Portico EP was available for free at the merchandise table. At first, I wasn’t all that interested. Then, they played Lenses, which is featured on this week’s TS10. As soon as they finished playing that song, I quickly grabbed my copy of Portico.
Admittedly, I am a sucker for songs that have at least a semi-epic feel to them, especially ones that start out mellow and slowly build, and build, and build. Lenses is such a song. It is not a song, per se, in that it is instrumental. Truly, no lyrics are needed for this piece. I remember what it was like listening to them play it live that night. I vividly remember feeling the slow build, finding myself moving along with the music as its intensity continually rose. When the band finally reached the emotive crescendo of Lenses, I was ready for it and I allowed the force of that climax to overtake my heart and mind. Moments like that transcend just listening to someone play music. They become spiritual moments for me. From that point on, Softly, Dear has had my full attention.
I’m glad I snagged that EP. Softly, Dear has the extraordinary gift of taking a serious subject and giving it its due weight, while also, somehow, making the sharing of that subject fun. The best evidence of this gift is Know My Name from Portico, which has become one of their favorites among locals. It tells the story of a man who is drafted by the Army, whose life is altered forever, and who, as he ages, can no longer take care of himself. Sad subject matter… and they treat it as such. Yet the song still rocks and is fun to sing along with. Weird dynamic perhaps, but it totally works.
While Portico obviously showed significant growth from those first couple of recordings I wrote about in V1, Softly, Dear’s new album shows even more. They released the self-titled Softly, Dear in August of this year and it is a great listen (you can stream it on their Bandcamp page… and then you should buy it!). When I listen to it, I hear some serious Weezer influence in it, which cannot be a bad thing. There is the raucous fun of It’s Alright, a sarcastic look at poor life decisions, and Alive Now (Paycheck), a desperate cry for a paycheck owed. Alive Now makes me smile every time I hear it. I’ve always appreciated a good smartass. There’s also the tenderness and sobriety of two people falling out of love with each other in Things I Say. It’s not easy to move from silly to sober, but Softly, Dear pulls it off.
Not only is this album well worth your time and money, it also shows how Softly, Dear is continuing to grow, which promises even greater things in the future. So, take some time to listen to Lenses on the TS10. Even better, go to Softly, Dear’s Bandcamp page and stream/buy their music! My guess is that you will be drawn into their authenticity, playfulness, and smart-assedness as I have been.