by Ethan Jaynes (@ethan_jaynes)
For a musical project consistently pigeonholed as bedroom pop (thanks in part to Bandcamp-era micro-genrefication), Soft Fangs’ music is incredibly lush and detailed. While this may seem to run counter to the genre’s traditionally DIY aesthetic, Soft Fangs’ songwriter John Lutkevich earns this moniker for his project through the sheer intimacy of the music he creates. A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Lutkevich perform live in the basement of a student co-op in St. Louis. Much like his vocal performance on his solo debut LP The Light, his voice in conversation and in performance barely exceeds a whisper. This quality draws people in, and turns a house show into what feels like a personal performance tailored explicitly for you, the listener.
The Light is an enthralling showcase of Lutkevich’s songwriting and arrangement chops that offers a meticulous blend of this unique bedroom intimacy and glorious washes of guitar and synth. This dichotomy immediately makes itself clear on “Dragon Soap,” the first track on the record. Although it starts off sparse and meandering, the song opens up into a beautiful chorus that introduces themes of numbness and lethargy that persist throughout the record. These characteristics– pain and lack thereof, slowcore melodic development – are reminiscent of Sparklehorse. The next track, “The Air,” brings a massive, gauzy guitar into the mix, adding a wooziness to the album that lends itself more to Slowdive comparisons. However, despite some similarities to other artists, the sound that Soft Fangs creates is distinctly its own.
In terms of sonic texture and feel, it’s clear that The Light is fantastic, but Lutkevich’s consistently stunning songwriting and pained, personal lyrics establish a strong musical backbone that will likely lend The Light distinctive longevity in an over-saturated field of music. Nearly every song on the record can hold its own, which isn’t surprising considering that the album likely had the most singles of any record this year. Each song slowly develops a lithograph of Lutkevich’s life and struggles; by the end of the record, we’re offered an image of growing up, looking for a job, drugs, and the difficulty of facing your demons head-on. Sometimes these messages can be somewhat hard to interpret, but in the end, it’s clear that “when the light comes, turn around and stare.”