The digital age has done a lot of weird things to music. I’d argue that it has largely been a good thing, but it’s also bred a weird sort of ADHD in people and their listening habits. Gone are the days where eager young listeners would buy an album and pore over every facet of it, whether the artwork, the lyrics, or the long-winded thank-yous. This also isn’t reserved strictly for listeners. The internet has also paved the way for complete musical over-saturation. Not only in the number of artists vying for your attention, but also those artists who write something and immediately post it online without giving it another thought. I’m not complaining, mind you. It’s nice to have an endless amount of options at your fingertips, but I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t changed the way I approach music. Fortunately there are bands like SoftSpot that are doing their part to take us back to the days of being hands-on with our music, both in the way that they craft it and the way that they hope it is received by their listeners.
On their sophomore album MASS, the band has gone to great strides to create an experience that stresses the connection between the mind and the physical body. Every detail that went into MASS had this connection in mind, and the more you allow yourself to get pulled in by this alluring album, the more you’ll find that to be true. For example, the woman on the cover, who coincidentally acts as a mascot of sorts for the release, is a contortion artist named Amazing Amy who lives and performs in New York City. This woman, whose performance art focuses on pushing the human body to its extremes, is the perfect metaphor for SoftSpot’s music. It bends and breathes and moves in sometimes unsettling ways, while always maintaining a graceful, otherworldly beauty about itself. And in a move that further illustrates SoftSpot’s focus on those things that we can touch and feel, the band invited Amazing Amy into their home and photographed her for the striking cover using a Polaroid camera.
Following their debut album Ensō, the band settled on a decidedly different approach for its followup. Though they wrote the album in Brooklyn, they retreated back to their former home in North Carolina to record it. In this new rural setting and with plenty of time on their hands, the band breathed life into the new tracks patiently. They afforded the songs a much longer gestation period than anything they had done in the past, giving the songs a chance to be flexed in a live setting before recording them. Along these lines, the band also wrote and recorded for the first time as a trio, allowing things to come together organically and on their own time. They also employed several field recordings that further serve to set MASS in a corporeal universe. For example, the vocal take for “Black Room Blues” is particularly haunting as it was recorded during a thunderstorm. Listen closely and you can hear the gentle fall of rain and the thunder roll in the distance. It’s those little touches that make MASS such a moving experience.
All of these things work together to make MASS something to grab onto, something to give it weight. And at a time when music is largely broken down into click bait, news bites, lazy premieres, and other ephemera, it’s nice to have something so substantial to latch onto and meditate on. SoftSpot has put so much of themselves into this release that really the only proper way to digest it is respectfully and intently. Of course, all of this is only made easier by the fact that it’s one of the lushest, most gorgeous releases that I’ve heard this year. But then again, that is just my own assessment—you’ll have to make your own. So do yourself a favor and explore the corners of MASS. Heavens knows there are plenty of corners to get lost in.
MASS is available digitall and on 12″ vinyl now via SoftSpot’s Bandcamp page.