We’ve been following Toronto’s Soft Wounds since their first demo EP release, and were lined up in anticipation of the first proper long-player. It’s no cookie-cutter shoegaze or dream pop release, as it features some solid songwriting, using genre identifiers only to draw curious listeners into their sonic world. The reverb is warm and generous, the feels are real.
“Baby Blue”, the teaser single released last week, gives a pretty good idea where this project is headed, with a respectful nod to forbears like Ride, and the soft/loud dynamics of Teenage Fanclub. It’s an anthem for the cool kids, who wouldn’t be caught dead listening to generic indie dreck at frat parties.
The real highlight of Soft Wounds is the churning storm of “You Can’t Stay Here”. The hook is undeniable. It feels both familiar and classic, but without being a rehash/recycle, and jangles to a full stop after a rollicking ride. Probably a lock for regular airplay rotation in no time.
It’s not a perfectly-formed album, by any means. Not all the choices make immediate sense, but the songs grow on you. There are ebbs and flows to Soft Wounds, as hard-charging tunes give way to slow-burn torch songs, but the imprint here is strong, the identity fixed. Soft Wounds does what they do, and are fully comfortable expressing themselves within the parameters they’ve set. They’re not looking to reinvent the sound, but they will draw you in to their version of it.
So has Toronto become Canada’s shoegaze capital? Hard to argue, with a list of luminaries like Indoor Voices, Beliefs, Iris (R.I.P.), Rituals, Elsa, RLMDL and Lust. Whatever’s got into the water in Toronto, we’ll have some of that.