Review Summary: House of two-way mirrors.
Softcult is the budding project of twin sisters Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn. Formed in late 2020 as a side project to their main band, Courage My Love, Softcult wasted little time releasing debut extended play Year Of The Rat
months later before rapidly readying a follow-up batch of tracks to continue the Chinese Zodiac theme. Across the six songs and nearly twenty-minute runtime of second extended play Year Of The Snake
, the duo wrap listeners up in hazy, guitar-driven melodies and concise, catchy songwriting intent on sinking hooks – er, fangs
- into memories long after the final faint drumbeat of “Uzumaki” slithers away.
Lead track, “BWBB”, unfurls with a grungy bassline, snarling guitar leads, and a driving drumbeat as Mercedes sarcastically moans, “Boys will be boys/will be boys/will be boys
” in a snarling rally against “…gender violence and the double standard, hypocrisy and dissonance of the ’bro code’”. While the song is equal parts memorable and thought provoking, it’s also the least interesting side of Softcult sonically because the twins truly captivate when they coil up and slow down instead of simply striking out in frustration.
Standout track “House of Mirrors” fades in slowly before giving way to a delirious wall of sound as the duo envelops ears with a massive shimmering chorus that is just as intimate as Taylor Swift’s “mirrorball” as it is massive akin to Teenage Wrist’s “Stoned, Alone”. Weave in the floating tenors of the Arn-Horn twins on top and Softcult would probably playing arenas already if this song was released on radio in the mid-nineties. “Perfect Blue” slows the tempo down further, gliding along in a moody blur, yet providing just enough vocal dynamics and intriguing guitar leads to prevent listeners from slipping into a trance. Closer “Uzumaki” explores “…the cycle of abuse, and the trauma that it leaves behind” pairing hushed, defeated verses and a charging, desperate chorus that alternate before that final aforementioned drumbeat retreats into silence.
Year Of The Snake
, while imperfect, showcases the promise and the continued growth of Softcult as songwriters. While energizing at moments, the duo’s louder, more aggressive material could use a bit more refinement to become less predictable and simplistic. That said, when the twins drop their guard and explore their introspective side the results are simply breathtaking. Here’s to hoping Softcult pick Year Of The Dragon
for the title of their next release because if they keep penning songs like “House of Mirrors” it’s only a matter of time before this duo takes flight.