That perfect buzz: when you’re hazed by wine, soaked in salt water, baked in the sun and disenchanted with the corporeal. The sunburn hasn’t hasn’t started to peel yet, your scalp isn’t itching yet, and you have no need to scroll through every social app on your phone. The slim to none chance of such a mellow utopian state happening for anyone is what Maine’s Coke Weed captures on their third laid back psych rock album, Back to Soft.
Take the lyrics to nearly any track on Back to Soft. The “da dunt, da dunt, da dunt” pace in which phrases are delivered before they form a complete thought gives the impression of someone talking lying down, eyes closed, brain sputtering. “You’re just too young to know what you could get,” sings Nina Donghia on “Poison.” It’s a simple one-liner that works as both a pearl of wisdom and a tossed-off remark.
After the jubilant aggregation of the tambourine-thumping opener “Sunseeker,” the album drifts into an easy-going, stoned sense of serenity before picking up again with “Poison.” Like reaching halfway point of a good bottle of wine, “Poison” evokes a certain wistful and melancholy sense of peace: the moment of giving too much thought to things or giving thought to emotions you were previously shoving away. In the opening of “Poison” a steady guitar strum depicts a sturdy resilience abraded against agony and agitation heard in the opening’s sighing guitar licks. “Poison” goes on to be disorienting. With her cooing direct address and longing lilt’s Donghia sounds as though she’s softly scolding a brash child. It’s like Donghia is addressing a panorama she sees before her of her most recent heartbreaks. This disorientation collides with the surf-sludgin’ tide found throughout Back to Soft.
The second-half of the record takes on a more euphoric tone, similar to the time of night when the supplies are almost depleted. “Maryanne” picks the album up on to its feet again as a cooled off acid rock number that has a twinge of Jesus And Mary Chain gloom. “It doesn’t mean I’m going to like fall to pieces/I’ve been crying since I was four/Didn’t Mary Anne tell you it’s going to be a heavy year?” Donghia and McAlevey sing together. As Back to Soft spirals into the peppier, beach-rock side of things, the question of where they’ve drawn their influences runs rampant. The harmonies between Donghia and McAlevey often sound like a stalled Byrd’s track. Individually though, Donghia sounds like a love-fuzzed Mazzy Star on her cajoling soapbox and McAlvery would sound a bit like Kurt Vile in swim trunks.
Back to Soft is an album of displacement and disenchantment from life’s immediate concerns. Towards the end of the album on “Buckets” the band takes a stand: “I say it’s midnight/Let the good times roll.” Such a line might be one of the most washed up rock mantras of all time but appearing on Back to Soft the one-liner carries a completely different connotation. It’s that point of the night (and in the album) where it doesn’t matter anymore if someone says something corny. In fact, it’s probably better if you do just to solidify what we already know.