Soft Walls' 3rd album; 'Not as Bad as It Seems' was a long time coming. Rabid enthusiasm, ground down by the slog of getting through a week. Falling out of love with what you felt defined you. Losing more than you thought you could lose. It's hard to keep going when you don't know why you're doing it. Yet still, Dan Reeves, the sole proprietor of Soft Walls (also guitarist in Cold Pumas and former overseer of the Faux Discx label) kept going. Just, very slowly. The race is over, but the tortoise is still determined to get over the line. What else is there to do?
'Not as Bad...' is part self-critique, and part self-help. Our author throws his shortcomings in a pit, climbs down, and tries to figure a way out of this particular hole. The result is Soft Walls' most direct, concise, and (dare to whisper it) honest record to date. 9 tracks of self-reflective sauce, reduced down to a rich ragu.
It's the closest Reeves has got to his sonic utopia. Years of tinkering with pieces of cheap equipment, that feed his beloved 8-track cassette tape machine, finally paying off. Blown out and turned up to its master's satisfaction. The guitars are cranked. The drum machine is cranked. The tambourine is cranked. Everything is cranked. It’s all in the red, crackling and alive. Compositionally there's a little less 'vibe' and a little more action than last time around, 2014’s well-embraced ‘No Time’. Songs are chopped short, guitar lines either blaze or stick to the note, nothing is there that shouldn’t be. The drum machine sound is real nice. 'Not as Bad as it Seems' is exactly one walk to work in duration. Enough time to get lost in thought, but short and sweet enough that you wish it wasn’t over just yet.
The record rips through multiple looks in it’s short run-time. From FM motorik guitar rock, via high gain proto-punk, to looped ragas and lo-fidelity, wistful ballads. It’s all bathed in the record’s warm tape glow, resulting in a satisfyingly cohesive journey.
released June 21, 2019
Written, performed, recorded and mixed by Dan Reeves.
Mastered by Mark Jasper.
Cover photo by Lindsay Corstorphine.