Review Summary: Why complicate it?
I have learned to appreciate the simplicity that comes with pop. Music does not always have to have a mind-blowing message behind what is presenting; sometimes you just want to experience something that sounds pleasing to the ears. While I am not advocating that Soft Control falls into the realm of bubblegum pop that only elicits a minimal response while not providing any real substance, I will instead say that Laura Welsh knows her craft well, and merely tries to present herself honestly while still making great music. And it works.
Right from the get-go, “Soft Control’s” lush, haunting piano line leaves the listener pleasantly surprised and enchanted and when Welsh’s powerful voice is added to the mix. And it does let up from there. The whole first half of the album is dedicated to creating potent pop songs, as “Soft Control” transits into “Ghost’s” jangling drum heavy production, and the buzzing synth and stomping beat combo of “Break The Fall.” Despite going for pop appeal, Welsh takes care to never make her sounds seem grander than they appear. As the album suggests, Welsh practices control, instead of going over the top, the power of her songs is shown through sheer musical and vocal ability that they contain. These songs never try to overwhelm the listener with volume or bombastic-ness; even the big sounding “Break The Fall” never goes beyond the slightly pushed vocals of “We live the words, they never heal.”
Whereas the first half of the album roots itself firmly in straight pop tunes, the second half introduces variety by slowing the mood and pace of the album down entirely; and it feels undeniably smooth. With Cold Front’s subtle glossy synths alongside a moody slow snapping beat, and Hardest Part’s RnB-tinged pulsating beat with John Legend and Welsh’s creamy vocal collaboration; it shows that Welsh is not afraid to play around with her sound, and dabble with different atmospheres.
This is still very much pop at is core thematically though. Most of the song topics still exist in the typical pop realm of romantic relationships, with “Unravel” talking about giving too much in relationships when nothing is given back, while “Breathe Me In” describes being trapped in a draining relationship. Other songs lend themselves to similar topics. Despite the familiarity of the topics, they are presented in a mature manner, and saves them from staleness or hyperbole. There are even some interesting takes on the topics as well, with “God Keep’s display of optimism for the prospect of the next relationship being shown as maddening, while “Hollow Drum’s” presentation of the heart in a tense relationship makes it beat like a, well, hollow drum.
It does not have to be complicated though. Welsh pleases through Soft Control by presenting herself as someone who is using music merely as an aesthetic, but in a way that seems that embraces the control she has over her craft; and it all sounds so easily digestible, and definitely appealing.