“Year Of The Snake” has been a long time coming. The first single, “Spit It Out”, was released in July 2021 and the other singles have trickled out since then, building anticipation for the final product that was released on February 4, 2022. And while all of the singles are individually brilliant, hearing them in one coherent order with the flow the artist intended really highlights the sonic intention behind every line.
The energy of the tracks is probably my favorite part. There’s an extremely fine line where music is able to sound effortless and be drowning in feedback-laden guitars without also sounding bored and laconic, and Softcult spends the 6-song EP dancing on that line. Verses are often broken up by instrumental sections creating a disjointed structure that adds to the nervous excitement that defines “Year Of The Snake.” Album highlight “House Of Mirrors” uses a very call and response setup for the chorus – “Who knows? Who cares? (It hurts to see the truth)” before quickly bleeding into the next verse, and both of those were propelled by the staccato guitar solo that happened before it.
Lyrics are also a crucial part of the world Softcult builds on this EP. Lead singer Mercedes Arn-Horn puts a lot of emphasis on vocal deliveries that approach shouting, which sounds really cool over the instrumental, but pay attention to what she’s saying and the songwriting is just as interesting, with lots of clever wordplay that fleshes out the characters and events depicted. “Looking back at a face, barely recognize you // But the eyes are a shade of the same perfect blue //I watched you change into someone new // Saw it all degrade into deja vu” off the track “Perfect Blue” is an entire emotional arc, and this is the chorus, this attention to detail and straightforward yet intriguing method of building imagery in the mind of the listener.
When I listen to music, I imagine a void, a corner of deep space, and the song fills that void with something; a guitar line so memorable I can picture the artist playing it or a moment of songwriting clarity that paints a mental picture. Softcult embraces this darkness and blends perfectly into the void, with instrumentation that is often minimal in scope but feels expansive and evocative, drawing you in alongside the songs about conflict and danger, a film noir made of sound that would make Hitchcock proud.