Musically speaking, we live in an age where just about anything conceivable is possible. Artists are making music out of the life and death of a pig (i.e. Matthew Herbert's forthcoming One Pig LP), turning the internet into their own personal sample bank, and testing the limits of what constitutes a dance beat. So, when a band such as Portland duo Soft Metals comes along, touting a sound that owes just about everything to a bygone era, you can't help but wonder why.
Soft Metals, producer Ian Hicks' and singer Patricia Hall's eponymous debut LP, was likely born out of love for its influences, a love that its creators have carried around with them for a long time. In that way, the album was produced solely for themselves. It's the pair's attempt at tacking their name up on the New Wave Wall of Fame, hoping to land as close to their synth-pop heroes as possible. To enjoy the LP, you just need to care as much as the band does about how high they can reach.
On the lush, hypnotic singles "Psychic Driving" and "Eyes Closed," Soft Metals nears the Berlin mark, crafting dreamy pop tunes with layers of warm analog synths, drum machines, and lilting vocal melodies. Cuts like "The Cold World Melts" and "Do You Remember" recall DFA artists The Juan MacLean and The Crystal Ark, who both managed to nicely update the '80s sound with their darkly sensual, acid-tinged disco grooves, while "Voices" and "Pain" tread heavily on the well-worn territory belonging to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. It's hard not to make these kinds of connections while listening to Soft Metals. While it's obvious that Hicks and Hall know their way around both sound- and songcraft, they rarely—if ever—use those skills to sound like anything but a band even the most casual synth-pop fan would be familiar with. Hopefully next time Soft Metals will aim to write something more fresh.