reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether
A year after the release of his debut EP, Lower Hands, Guelph-based smooth melody maker Softside released his first full-length album. Continuing with chilled out and melancholic finesse, Luxury Lounge is a collection of sentiment that is linked to heartbreak and organizes the complicated into synth rolls and pitch bends.
Softside creates music that brings a unique amalgamation of the styles that are popular right now. Ian Bain can create the jangly guitar plucking so prevalent on the West Coast and tie it to a sleek R&B that has an Ontario energy, then without warning launch into a retro groove that evokes the 70s — all the while retaining his brand of off-kilter pensivness.
Opening with a break-up track about holding onto the past, Softside isn’t making any illusions or denying what he’s about. “On My Mind”, “Sounds Good” and “A Lot Like Her” sustain the sadness of lost relationships, while the more optimistic “Just Fine” and “Holiday” speckle the in-between so as to give the feeling of an emotional instability. An unreliable narrator, Bain declares “I’m so good without you” on “Just Fine”. There’s a story here, but you have to peel back the layers of emotions to get to what’s raw.
Amidst the longing comes “Uxbridge”, a song about missing home and what home even means after you’ve left it. Not only for the lack of breakup allusions is this track different: it is more upbeat, clearer, and has a breeziness that is easily addictive. It’s a moment of something new before the end of the album, which comes in with “All Night”’s wind chimes, and goes out with a real sigh. What else would you expect from Softside?
Whether it’s filling the space or holding back with soft minimalism, Luxury Lounge is an album that wants you to melt into it as though it were your comfiest armchair. So sit back and let these feelings work and sort themselves out around you, and maybe by the end you’ll be sighing, satisfied, along with Softside.
Top Track: “Uxbridge”; “A Lot Like Her”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)