Review | The Soft Cavalry - The Soft Cavalry
The first self-titled album from Soft Cavalry spans genres with its eclectic mix of traumatically hopeful songs.
Wife and husband duo Rachel Goswell and Steve Clarke have been around the music block a few times, but their self-titled debut album is the first time Clarke has been thoroughly in creative control. Rachel, whose previous success lies with band Slowdive, has been crucial to the creation of The Soft Cavalry, and the album weaves her influence throughout.
The record label Bella Union picked them up in April of this year and they kicked off the release of their debut album with performances in London and Manchester. Here's what Bella Union have to say about the duo: "The band’s music is a particularly British brand of intense cinematic drama. Melodic and timeless, the album lands in the atmospheric dimensions between Pink Floyd, Talk Talk and Mansun. A record radiating midlife crisis but equally enormous elation; a helix of fear and hope, aching for resolution."
Bella Union aren't wrong, the lyrics throughout this record speak of past pains and trauma slowly being overcome. The wounds are still there but healing has begun and with it, hope creeps in. Using nature as the backdrop for questions about morality, the lyrics often take on an ethereal tone as the lessons learnt from the past raise questions about the future.
Not afraid to play around with their vocals, The Soft Cavalry use a heavy mix of distortions in tracks like ‘Careless Sun’ whilst the layering of Steve and Rachel’s voices bring a moody, otherworldly vibe to ‘Dive’ and ‘Spiders’. Steve’s vocals take on a surprisingly delightful gritty turn at the start of ‘Home’, and the sheer vocal variety in this record really makes it worth a listen.
Unsurprisingly, the record boasts a heavy array of sounds to bring musical delight to its listeners. Harps, violins and what can only be described as whale sounds bring a light, uplifting presence to some tracks whilst we’re treated to the time-tested brilliance of bass, guitar and drum echo on others. Moodiness is captured with the help of haunting piano runs and dirty bass lines, whereas the acoustic guitar with echoed hand claps brings a country twist. Soft Cavalry don’t slot neatly into a genre. You can find reverberations from the likes of The Smiths, Joni Mitchell, Oasis, Radiohead, The National, Madonna, Lorde and Mansun.
Whilst the album is sporadic in genre it can be roughly split into two types of records. The pop and indie tracks, and the psychedelic and moody ones, which haven’t been organised in the best way. ‘Never be Without You’ radiates with summer feel good vibes, which is followed by the brilliantly morose sounding ‘Only In Dreams’ which plunges you from the height of giddiness to despair at a jarring rate, only to be followed by another uplifting guitar track. It’s a shame that the placing of the tracks wasn’t more carefully considered. The other problem is the tracks used to start and finish the album. ‘Dive’ is a slow dreamy looping guitar riff which doesn’t really reach an engaging crescendo, not perfect for the first track of a debut album.
‘Spiders’ is the standout track on this record, you’d be hard-pressed to find another track that combines grunge-y vocals, drum and bass undertones with a smattering of country twang strings. ‘Spiders’ manages to push the boundaries of genre without being an overproduced mess.
The layering of guitars at the start of ‘The Velvet Fog’ gives us a catchy fingerpicked riff against an epic whaling backdrop to launch us into blissful indie vibes. Perfectly-placed drum fills, yearning lyrics and energetic synths give us a Hot Fuss feeling. The vocals take a backseat in this track letting the music do all the talking.
‘Mountains’ is the only truly disappointing track. With a constant set of basic piano chords throughout, the track never actually builds into anything other than a louder version of the same piano chords covered with quiet harp runs.
The Soft Cavalry have pushed boundaries to much success and although the track listing could have been arranged more appropriately, there are plenty of eclectic songs to dive into with this debut.
Best songs: Spiders, The Velvet Fog, The Ever Turning Wheel
Worst song: Mountain