Shakespeare’s Romeo made the case that names don’t matter so much when it comes to what’s inside. But Romeo didn’t make it to the end of the play, and in the case of Dan Bodan’s new album, Soft, the name is a very good place to start. Like its title suggests, the album is plush, warm and smooth. And there is a track on Soft called Romeo, a pained, almost desperate ballad with an aftertaste of ’90s house, and because of a bass-heavy low end, the name ends up sounding like a false facade.
The first track on the LP is called Soft Opening, which is probably both a sexual euphemism and a literal description of the song’s tracklist placement. A thick, embryonic beat burbles in the background as Bodan purrs wistful lines like, “Touch my lips and then unfurl,” and the song fades, softly, into the rest of the album. Soft‘s lead single is Soft As Rain, laced with a buzzy backbeat fog that warbles and lilts around Bodan’s hookiest verses. This is prime high-point-of-the-romance material, and a point that doesn’t come again.
Soft hits on some deeply buried emotions (“I left scraps inside of you” on Soft Opening; “If you feel a rusted heart/don’t let them know” on Rusty), but does it with such grace that it’s easy to convince yourself this is an album of all-forgiving love. But Soft isn’t all infatuation, delicate keys and supple vocals; there’s a sense here that Bodan’s not the type to let something happen without a little bit of a fight. The Billie Holiday cover For Heaven’s Sake (Let’s Fall In Love) nods solidly to the original while opting for a darker piano arrangement instead of springtime flutes. Catching Fire pushes industrial nails through Bodan’s whispered vocals: “This is fire/this is hell/this is my love.”
Bodan’s arrangement of the album is precise, ending with a weighty guitar ballad that even sounds like the end of a relationship. And though the song is called Good Time Summer, the lyric is “good time summer’s gone.” This one moment is indicative of the larger theme of Soft. It can be simply happy and beautiful, but only if you’re not looking at its edges.