Soda Blonde have released their debut album ‘Small Talk’ via Velveteen Records, the entirely self-produced album sees the group reflecting on their twenty-something experiences with refreshingly honest transparency. All four band members (Faye O’Rourke, Adam O’Regan, Dylan Lynch and Donagh Seaver-O’Leary) are seasoned musicians, despite their youth. They have been playing together since their early teens, with their previous band – the internationally renowned Little Green Cars, whose seminal debut album skyrocketed to number one on the Irish album charts.
‘Small Talk’ is a collection of musical marvels that showcases the magic and brilliance of Soda Blonde’s artistic musicianship. Filled with cinematic undertones and heart-rushing emotional moments, the four-piece have created a body of work that seems to flow like a soundtrack to a movie. ‘Tiny Darkness’ acts as the prelude to the album. Opulent soundscapes of elegant staccato strings, lush harmonies and lamenting piano introduce the listener to the musical wonder that is Soda Blonde while O’Rourke’s sweet, lulling vocal brings to life the vivid imagery within the lyrics “They said that I could be a star, But I bent out of my shape, I’m like a washed-up tv host, Watching back old tapes”. The track is a fine example of the band’s blossoming sound and poetic lyricism and a fantastic opener for a debut album.
There is an air of mystery and a relatable theme of self-discovery within the tracks on the album, however, hidden beneath the instrumentation is an undercurrent of melancholy. This aspect is deftly expressed throughout the album in different ways for example the spacious brooding atmosphere in ‘The Dark Trapese’ exudes a deep sense of loneliness while dark synths and the eerie, shimmery lustre of ‘In The Heat Of The Night’, and hypnotic guitar refrain within ‘Terrible Hands’ all allude to the element of sadness within the tracks while O’Rourke’s lyrical mastery cuts deep with honest tales of heartbreak and insecurities.
An intriguing aspect of Soda Blonde is O’Rourke’s storytelling ability which takes the listener on a journey through the inner workings of the singer-songwriter’s mind. Through poignant lyrics and effective use of stream of consciousness, the listener begins to truly understand the artist’s thoughts and emotions. This is shown in the utterly magnificent ‘Holy Roses’ – “so many fights, so much nothing in the bed, so many railroads that don’t lead to anything…” and ‘Try’ as O’Rourke aptly describes the complexities of navigating through the constant tasks of modern life – “Gotta get a job, Gotta go to work, Gotta find yourself? Then Meet me afterwards”.
Throughout the album, Soda Blonde display their deft musical prowess. Each track is lavishly adorned in shimmering synths, sensual basslines and virtuoso guitar embellishments that is simply a joy to listen to, however, ‘I Still Have Feelings For You’ highlights the power within the band’s minimalist arrangements. Combined with gentle guitars and a soft beat beneath O’Rourke’s emotive vocals, the song ventures into the band’s more folk-pop sound and is a time-stopping moment on the album that leaves the listener dumb-struck by the tracks lyrical beauty and musical grace.
‘Choices’ brings the album to a close similar to how it started with cinematic, swooping strings and vivid soundscapes that pulse and surge with emotion while a bittersweet melody drives the songs catchy alternative pop sensibilities. The band bring the album full circle, however within the lyrics we get a sense of empowering confidence as the four-piece leave us on a pondering thought that our choices can lead to a sense of liberation. Interestingly, as the last notes of the track fade to silence the album doesn’t feel as if it’s a conclusive end. It resembles more of a cliffhanger which is quite refreshing to experience on an album.
Small Talk is an emotional and beautiful work of art. The band have been honing their craft meticulously, and the result is a breathtaking debut that cements Soda Blonde’s position as one of Ireland’s most exciting bands.
01 – Tiny Darkness
02 – The Dark Trapeze
03 – In the Heat of the Night
04 – Swimming Through The Night
05 – Terrible Hands
06 – Try
07 – Holy Roses
08 – I Still Have Feelings for You
09 – Small Talk
10 – Champion of My Time
11 – Love Me World
12 – Choices
OVERALL RATING: 4 stars