Soft Black, The Earth is Black

Anthony Mark Happel

Soft Black, The Earth is Black [Plays With Dolls]

This outstanding record is one of the sleepers of the year, so far. Starting with the very appealing first song, “The Earth is Black,” they cast a mildly deformed shadow over the alt-country and punk-a-billy worlds as they mash up numerous genres into a complex aural mass, but they remain very likable while doing so. They’re both earthy and urban(e), as exhibited by “The Flesh of the Sky,” where they end up sounding something like the Black Heart Procession, but with a pulse that actually hovers above that of a comatose ICU patient.

Their loose, unforced approach to various genre exercises is sturdy throughout the record, and they make good on the promise of every single track as they disassemble and re-assemble the last twenty years of indie rock, laying waste to all the musical pretenders out there. They maneuver around all sorts of potential obstacles over the course of the album, but nothing trips them up. Not even the street punk sing-along of “I Am an Animal, ” which shakes it’s ass off with a Black Lips-style attitude. Finally, there’s the wildly infectious “Did You Put a Spell on Me?” This is a song that comes closer than just about anything I’ve ever heard at approximating the late-night coffeehouse rock of the sensational, and hugely underrated, Karl Hendricks Trio. Very fine work, indeed, pulling that one off!

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