Do you know the website Drinkify? It’s a site that suggests what hard drink would go well with what band you’re listening to. When listening to Soft Metals’ pungent sophomore album Lenses I might want to sip a real nice cognac or something equally pricey I can’t afford. I’d like something nice if I’m going to toast to my own existence. Singer Patricia Hall and composer Ian Hicks don’t veer far from the sound they established on their self-titled debut in 2011, but subject matter wise, they really pulled back the drapes as opposed to just opening the blinds on Lenses. Hall’s celestial voice and nihilistic themes are blanketed in synths that give you the impression you’re listening to an enchanting hologram that’s telling you, “Beware your ephemeral existence.” I think cognac would go well with this, or maybe a real deep red. Then Drinkify told me that one Red Stripe (garnished with pepper) would do just fine.
The point is you don’t need to get fancy to over think your emotional cerebrum. Soft Metals’ Lenses provides you the luxury of feeling like a cultivated neurotic when pondering things like, “Do I still love him? I think so. Did I ever? What is life?” That’s pretty much how all the songs on Lenses curve. They start out with talking about a love interest and then somehow swerve into philosophical musings that, for better or for worse, never really tie back to the original topic (at least, not blatantly). For instance, “When I Look Into Your Eyes” starts out “Your body piercing right through mine/Cutting me like a knife” to spiral out into the grim thought of, “And I die/And he dies/We all die/We all die.” The way that Patricia’s voice cooly delivers these lines over a shimmering synth and a timid bass gives the track the essence of a frost.
Not all the tracks on Lenses are pierced by Hall’s icy disconnected drone. She floats between the frothy synths on “Tell Me” when she cries out, “Tell me/Is this the truth?” Hall also sounds jubilant on certain occasions like on “In The Air,” which is like a fresh bit of air for the brooding stoned beatnik she’s been type-casting herself as throughout the album. She doesn’t deliver her lines in her typically ice cool style, but rather heats up along with a vivacious synth line bouncing all the way through the track.
Sometimes when lyrics begin to get existential (and also when you know that the two composite band members are lovers themselves) it’s too easy to think of them as the singer’s personal musings. With thinking like that, things can get awkward pretty quickly. But this album isn’t quite a personal diary of love letters; it’s more like an existentially-inclined journal. Hall and Hicks aren’t inviting you to climb into their bed but rather, inviting you into their minds. It’s an album for a seductive but thoughtful loft party.