The third album from the hugely exciting Irish songwriter is our pick of the week's best new releases
SOAK’s third album opens with a deep inhale and exhale from Bridie Monds-Watson. It’s almost a “right, here we go” from the Londonderry singer songwriter, half steeling themself for the task ahead, half sigh of relief that the time is finally at hand.
It’s been a wait since Monds-Watson’s last album under their SOAK moniker, three years and a bit since the excellent Grim Town, so the relief is palpable. That album came a whole four years after Before We Forgot How To Dream and in the seven years in between, it feels like the world has caught up with SOAK, both in the movement of queer-positive indie artists towards mainstream popularity and in the swing of the popularity pendulum back towards starkly personal lyricism.
It’s inevitable that Phoebe Bridgers, Pillow Queens, even Camp Cope will spring to mind at various points during If I Never Know You Like This Again, but Monds-Watson has a voice that is very much their own while also relatable in their wry observations about relationships and self-doubt. ‘purgatory’ finds their ego struggling with the idea of death and non-existence – even at the age of 26, such things can weigh heavy, maybe more so in the middle of a pandemic.
Monds-Watson is an unflinching about their own bulls*** as they are of the date who won’t stop talking during a gig and preaches sustainability while littering on the wonderful ‘baby you’re full of s***’. “I probably won’t listen to your podcast,” they shrug, “…I was just being polite.”
Throughout, SOAK demonstrates an exceptional ability to craft songs that have all the mise en scene of 90s alt rock but the bones of folk pop. This is never more evident than the exceptional single ‘last july’, a perfect storm of fuzzy hooks and vulnerable pleas for permanency. “I don’t want to become just another place where you went one time,” they state matter-of-factly, “I don’t want to be a souvenir / I don’t want to be a Polaroid / I want to buy your groceries.” Their final plea to “Let me know when you figure yourself out” speaks to the inevitable pain of knowing exactly what you want when what you want hasn’t the first clue.
With If I Never Know You Like This Again, SOAK has delivered the perfect album at the perfect time. For everyone who has found themselves frustrated by their own bulls*** and the bulls*** of the people they love, this is practically a manifesto.