Photo: Ellius Grace
We've been following Irish songstress SOAK for some time now, eagerly awaiting her album, Grim Town, as she's released stunning single after single over the past few months. The rising artist released her debut album Before We Forgot How To Dream in 2015 and hasn't looked back since, garnering millions of streams, recognition from BBC Radio 1, and a dedicated fanbase in the process. In an industry increasingly dominated by the EP, SOAK's full-length 15 track concept album is refreshing - especially as every single song stands on its own.
Grim Town is an especially personal project for the singer, as she describes the premise as "a dystopia that I've created in my brain: me on the inside, processed into a pretend location." With some distance between herself and her own psyche, SOAK has created a listening experience that digs into the emotional bruises marking us all, from depression, social anxiety, divorce and the current state of society.
"All aboard" sets the scene for the album, as an elderly train conductor makes a boarding announcement amongst the ambient noise of a train station. Kicking things off with this element of dark humor speaks to SOAK's creativity and will undoubtedly make for a striking introduction at live shows.
Despite the morbidity of certain lyrics in the next track, "Get Set Go Kid," SOAK's voice is anything but strident, melting over the song like warm honey. She also casually throws in a vocal slide that can only be described as a yodel, which is a quality we admire in any vocal performance.
"Everybody Loves You" comes next, complete with a catchy melody and bursts of sharp choral layers in the background. The lyrics are bitter and the track is decadent, which makes the song balanced and easy to digest. "Knock Me Off My Feet" follows, offering instrumentation bubbling with a signature 80s synth flavor.
"Maybe" takes time to build, eventually hitting hard at the end of the song as the sound reaches peak fullness. "Fall Asleep / Backseat" offers a softer side to the album, coasting at a relaxed and steady tempo. "Crying Your Eyes out" slows things almost to a halt, as SOAK's voice drones like a siren over a simple piano track. Heartbreaking high notes lead up to what is perhaps the most vulnerable moment on the album.
Photo: Ellius Grace
"I Was Blue, Technicolour Too" comes next, and fair warning: the melody will be running through your mind indefinitely. The lyrics are typically SOAK in their honesty, as she sings,
"All the party did was depress me."
"Déjà vu" is a shining example of a perfectly crafted chorus which only features a few words. Upbeat and danceable, the song is interrupted in the middle by a samples of police cars and hushed talking, adding an interesting texture to the overall sound.
"Scrapyard" is nothing short of an anthem. We can already see the confetti flying on this one. "Valentine Shmalentine" was released as a single, teasing the album with an eerie vintage quality and humorous lyrics. "YBFTBYT," a title which is explained by the first line of the song, is magnetic. SOAK's vocals are unfiltered as she sings,
"You've been forgetting to brush your teeth, you've been out every night this week. You've been smoking, but you don't smoke. Everyone's laughing now, you're the butt of the joke."
"Life Trainee" begins with a burst of energy and persists throughout. If you're looking for a single track which is demonstrative of SOAK's sound as a whole, this is a good pick. "Missed Calls" is one of the longer songs on the album, and swells throughout as shimmering guitar showers the track with drops of sound. She pops in and out of falsetto with ease, guiding the listener through a complete emotional journey in a single song.
The album ends with "Nothing Looks The Same," which comments on changing perspective. The song fades into a distant buzzing as she sings,
"It's different since I came, my feelings rearrange. Now I've changed the frame, nothing looks the same."
All in all, SOAK's sophomore album is a brilliant amalgamation of her natural talent and innate ability to fit intimate moments into universally relatable lyrics. Take a trip to Grim Town now and keep an eye on SOAK as she forges ahead on her inevitable rise to greatness.