Album: Before We Forgot How To Dream
Label: Rough Trade Records
Released: June 1, 2015
RATING: 3/5 STARS
These days, it seems child prodigies are a dime a dozen (how else did The Voice Kids become a thing? *coughs*), so perhaps the least impressive fact about 19-year-old Bridie Monds-Watson – aka SOAK – should be her age. And yet, the maturity of both songwriting and delivery on Before We Forgot How To Dream makes it difficult to be entirely unimpressed. Because she is, of course, talented beyond her years. Endearingly earnest and refreshingly devoid of try-hard, Monds-Watson writes with a youthfulness that is inescapably relevant to this album of dark, soulful, indie-folk. (SOAK = soul + folk, you with me? Yep.)
“The teenage heart is an unguided dart/We’re trying hard to make something of what we are”, are her first words to us (in B a noBody). Sometimes throaty, sometimes whispy, SOAK’s vocals sit somewhere between Bjork and a younger Laura Marling, but have a distinctiveness that is all her own. The pulsing acoustic guitar lines, moody melodies, the dark and dangerous vibe; all stand in startling contrast to the childlike tones of Monds-Watson’s higher register, even as she manages to sound world-weary in the very next breath.
It may be the adolescent transparency that initially captures our attention, but Before We Forgot How To Dream grows in maturity as it progresses. The flow is concept album-like (a number of short ambient numbers link the anchor tracks with satisfactory ease), travelling through the bass ‘n’ drums-driven Sea Creatures, the gently reckless Garden (“I’d waste all my time on you if I could”) and finally to the murky whispers of “blind”. The innocence gradually fades in the wash, the vocals becoming more faded and cracked with time; you can practically hear Monds-Watson ageing. The astute poetry of the earlier B a noBody is replaced with streetwise cynicism by the time we reach Reckless Behaviour: “Slowly holding to things you told me/Most probably stolen from online poetry”.
No matter how much talent they ooze, ideally, debut albums leave their listeners wanting more. Before We Forgot How To Dream lingers a couple of tracks too long, utterly saturating us in SOAK’s dreamy, dark, indie-folk before it takes its leave. On the other hand, there is an abundance of confident musicality to praise. Damn these talented youngsters.