Monday, October 24, 2016

[ Album Review ] Soft Ledges - Debut Album

Artist: Soft Ledges
Self Titled Debut Album
Official Website
Twitter / Instagram

Chicago alternative goth-rockers Shelley Miller, and Chris Geisler make up the band Soft Ledges. When performing live, they can be seen with drummer Raul Cotaquispe. Together they are a dynamic three piece, raw with talent, vibrant vocal prowess, and intensely dark and intriguing subject matter. Miller and Geisler have been involved in many musical projects, including TAFKAV, and The Hamburglers... in 2015 Soft Ledges was born. One year later they have honed in their unique sound with engineer John Abbey at Kingsize Soundlabs, and are set to take the masses by storm. Featuring guitar, bass, drums, piano, and a vast array of pedals and ghostly sounds, it’s an endlessly charming and poignant debut release. 

Soft Ledges: Track by Track

La Nina – A brooding, yet uplifting start to an immensely brave and honest record. “When your bones hit the river, you’re just another girl in the water” Singer and songwriter Shelley Miller paints haunting visuals with her lyrics, shaking your thoughts, piercing the soundscape with her smooth powerful vocals. Moody sustained guitars, pleasantly haunting piano, and a bass line undertow like the anchor of a wooden ship, effortlessly navigating through stormy seas. 

Tear Me Down – “Tear me down, build me up backwards... it’s the only way to understand” Boasting an exciting arrangement, Tear Me Down is easily one of our personal favorite's off the album. Greeted with a bass line ripping through the mix like a slingshot, followed by a driving progressive drum beat. You feel like a ripped up baseball being flung through the air at your neighbors window, bracing for the glass to shatter. Lyrically this song is very fun, Miller toys with classic nursery rhymes, making you do a double take as you see these seemingly harmless words in a new light. 

Orion – “Orion, Orion” rustling wind chimes on an autumn day, the stray tabby cat peeking through the holes in your neighbors fence, distant doorbells ring as it starts to lightly rain, people start to go inside “and the white noise, is a lion’s roar” . A sentimental sensitive ballad, prying at your rib cage, finding its way to your heartstrings to pluck them one by one, before placing your heart back gently, exactly as it was, if not just a little warmer than before.

Deer Fly BluesMiller's voice really shines on this track, Hi hats decorate the soundscape among ambient guitars, attitude, The energy is tangible, full of calm agony, a forlorn tale of revenge, “God Bless your broken bones”. The build ups and break downs in this song are the mark of a dynamically powerful band.  Flight of the Deer fly, exerting every ounce of energy on tiny wings, firing on all cylinders. The song climaxes with an intense musical interlude, like a ravenous swarm of insects so dense the sky changes it's shade. 

The Bells and You Beneath – Dark and thunderous, a funeral march for the villain. The skies open up and pour out black rain, soaking the ground in a coat of oil, sealing the dead underneath, before tossing a match to torch the hollowed grounds. “When you go up you’re not coming down”. Drums and distorted wailing guitars build and crash, feverous birds swooping out with threatening screams just out of earshot. Lowering the body down, a casket full to the brim with black roses. 

Long Way to the Ground(personal favorite) This song shows a different musical side to Soft Ledges, leaning more to the Folk / Americana genres then the rest of the album. A tranquil finger-picked guitar intro, layered next with shaker percussion drops in with the bass that creates a moving harmonious vibe. “It’s just a short fuse in your mind, so give up the fight against every little thing you can’t do right, It’s a long way to the ground, and you’re never going to get back up until you come down” We all fail at some point in our lives, but not everyone hits rock bottom. It’s a long way to the ground, and in a way, that's a very comforting thought. 

(photos © David Sameshima)

Seven Stories – Aggressive, distorted guitars and cymbals flying. Reminiscent of The Kills, Dead Weather. Miller sings “hands on my shoulder you keep me from running… I can’t give you anything you want”. Some people are hard to please, and at a certain point everyone gets fed up with that tug of war. This song feels like the cold splash of water, the break in the chain, the last ounce of strength needed to get out of a toxic relationship.

Highlight Reel – Somber, forlorn feelings of dread swell and fall as electric guitar and bowed bass embrace your ears like the first taste of winter, bundled under blankets. “When the stars go out, you don’t have to tell them how to shine…” Unrequited love, might be better than to love and then told there never was a love. Denying denial, Miller screams at the top of her lungs “It Was Love” over and over again, sending chills through the airwaves. The song keeps playing, as if to say, even when you’re hurting, and you finally say what’s on your mind, life still goes. A hopeless, very human feeling. 

Don’t Wait – Bouncy, tap house piano, and in your face vocals, you feel like you're hanging around past last call, the bartender knows you by your first name. Lyrics warning you to stop procrastinating on love if you have it. Don’t wait, it might not always be there “Change is gonna come for you, don’t wait, change things if you can”. Romanticizing a life without loneliness, a life being there for the people you care about.  Unconditional sincerity, and sacrifice. The fundamentals of good, meaningful relationships & friendships are the kind of things Miller's sings not to let pass you by. 

Ladder – ”When the ladder ascends...” the last song off Soft Ledges self-titled release is suspenseful, and full of intrigue. Hypnotic bass lines that blend like Bailey's and coffee. Swells of ambient guitar and eerie, childlike piano, snare rolls descending into more and more dissonance and erratic stokes, like the journey back home for a stray dog, wandering through puddled alleyways, an adventure at every turn.

Soft Ledges self- titled debut album will be available November 18, 2016 on iTunes, CDBaby, Bandcamp, and their website: You can even get a vinyl copy in January 2017. 

Bio from Soft Ledges Website:
  Chicago's Soft Ledges make dark, angular, delicate music with the belief that the secret to lost is found and the only way in is through. Formed in 2015 by songwriter Shelley Miller (vox/piano/guitar) and Chris Geisler (bass), the band (joined at live shows by drummer Raul Cotaquispe) is set to release their self-titled debut album November 18.
     Miller and Geisler, both veterans of the Chicago music scene (Miller as a singer/songwriter, Geisler in the Hamburglars, TAFKAV and several other punk bands), started Soft Ledges with a mission to make brave, honest music beyond the bounds of genre...and to challenge the self-perceived limits of what they were "allowed" to do as musicians and people.
The result?  Miller's fevered, urgent whispers and screams on La Niña and Seven Stories.  Geisler's bowed electric bass, awash in reverb, on Highlight Reel. Fingerpicking and distortion pedals.  Last call, last chance lullabies.
   Inspired by artists like Vic Chesnutt, Kristin Hersh and Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Miller and Geisler holed up in a practice space for a winter, teasing new noises out of pedals, drums, mouths, bows and strings, and arranging the ten songs that would become their first album. The songs, all penned by Miller, are steeped in loss (death, abuse, depression), but also in hope, and the idea of 'living through what kills you.'
     "I went through a period, right before we were working on these songs, where I lost some people I was close to - several friends and grandparents - and a couple others were dealing with life-changing illnesses, and someone I cared about was telling me that everything I did was wrong on a regular basis," says Miller.  "And at first I went numb, and then I threw myself in to finding my voice on the drums and with pedals and just making music that feels as alive and visceral as possible."