SOFT SHELTER – EP Review: “Judgment Day”

Soft Shelter EP Art

Soft Shelter is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and music producer based in Santa Barbara, California who writes pleasing indie dream pop songs laced with alt-rock, psychedelic, pop and electronic elements, and featuring thoughtful lyrics. Since the release of his first single “Ashes” last November (2019), he’s been a busy guy, dropping a new single or EP every month or so. In March, he released his single “Anticipation”, and now returns with his second EP Judgment Day, featuring “Anticipation” and two new tracks written during the COVID-19 quarantine.

He states that the EP is sort of a loose trilogy, with rather moody songs that still contain a certain optimism toward the future: “I tried to understand what it means to be an individual within a community during a global pandemic.” He wrote, performed , sang, produced and mixed the songs. Mastering was done by Matt Pereira (aka KOMAK).

Soft Shelter2

The first track, “Anticipation,” was written during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, and it’s title is an apt descriptor for the growing anxiety of the period. Soft Shelter states that the song “speaks to the anxious feeling that accompanies the anticipation of a crisis and the weird sensation of questioning whether it’s paranoia or legitimate.” The song is beautiful, with warm, shimmery synths and gentle percussion, over which he and fellow musician Noah Kastenbaum have layered beautifully strummed guitar notes. It all creates an enchanting backdrop for Soft Shelter’s ethereal vocals, which rise to a lovely falsetto in the choruses. The xylophone at the end is a nice touch.

Dead Metaphors” touches on how languages evolve over time, with word meanings going from literal to figurative, and trying to stay optimistic: “Time to hit stop and rewind. Dead metaphors don’t stay behind. We too can rise again. Let’s just say when.” The song has a languid sort of hip hop beat, with piano, programmed drums and gnarly electric guitar being the dominant instruments. I like how he makes the music shudder just before the second chorus, like hitting stop, rewind and play on a tape machine.

The third track “Judgment Day” was inspired by the writings of French philosopher Albert Camus, who Soft Shelter admires. He explains that the lyrics “attest to feeling lost and looking for guidance, which is often the case when people look to religion or philosophy or any ideology for meaning or support. We have to work toward uncovering our blind spots and the things that prevent us from seeing clearly.” This is beautifully articulated by the lines “It sure feels like judgement day. Tell me what the wise men say?  In the end, perhaps we’ll find all the things that made us so blind. Will anything be the same?

Musically, the song has a pleasing synth-pop vibe, highlighted by resonant piano keys, crisp percussion and electric guitar. As always, Soft Shelter’s velvety smooth vocals are captivating. The track ends with an excerpt from Camus’s Nobel Prize speech, in which he calls attention to how artists require beauty but also are uniquely tied to their communities: “True artists hold nothing in contempt; they oblige themselves to understand, rather than judge.”

It’s gratifying to see so many artists using their imaginations and creative talents to write relevant and topical music during this unfortunate virus quarantine, and Soft Shelter’s Judgment Day is another shining example of this. He will also be donating 50% of all sales of his EP on the Bandcamp music site to food banks.

Follow Soft Shelter on Instagram
Stream his music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

New Song of the Week: DAVID VIVIAN – “Always”

David Vivian

Two months ago I featured singer-songwriter and guitarist David Vivian upon the release of his third single “Weekend”. Now the Santa Barbara, California-based musician is back with his beautiful new single “Always“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. David states that “Always” is “about the idea of trying to find someone in one’s art when that can only ever be a mediation.”

The song opens with a haunting little guitar riff, then expands with pleasing keyboard, bass and percussive synths to create a dreamy backdrop for David’s silky, ethereal vocals. He lays down some fine, intricate guitar work throughout the track, and his solo in the bridge is really wonderful. “Always” is a fairly simple track, but has a quiet intensity that hits us in the feels. It’s a beautiful song, and another in a string of excellent singles from this promising young artist.

Dear love, sorry I hurt you
Please know I didn’t mean to
And know I’ll always want you
I can’t explain—I’ve just got to
And I just want you to know

That I was wrong
So wrong
Yes I thought I
Could find you in a song
But I was wrong
I took too long

Dear love, I don’t deserve you
Until all this pain has left you
I want you to have it all
Let’s throw a party, let’s have a ball
And know I’ll be here if you fall
Yes I’ll be here if you fall

Yes I was wrong
So wrong
Yes I thought I
Could find you in a song
But I was wrong
I took too long

Connect with David on Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on  Bandcamp / Apple Music / Google Play

DAVID VIVIAN – Single Review: “Weekend”

David Vivian

David Vivian is a young graduate student and budding singer-songwriter and guitarist from the beautiful coastal California city of Santa Barbara. Writing and recording songs in his bedroom studio, David has released three singles over the past few months, the latest of which is “Weekend“, which drops today, June 14th.

The lyrics speak to how many of us seem to live for the weekends, yearning for the promise of thrills and the respite they bring from the routine and drudgery of our weekday lives, always aware that they’re doomed to come to an end way too quickly. David opens the song with a strummed guitar riff, sunny synth and perky xylophone, giving us a sense of hopeful optimism that another weekend is upon us. Abruptly, the music turns sour like a smile suddenly becoming a frown as reality sets in, but then it all perks back up to a breezy, upbeat tempo that continues through to the end of the song. Along the way, David lays down some fine guitar work, accompanied by pleasing keyboards, bass and percussive synths, and I especially like the horn synths he inserts after the final chorus.

His soft, echoed vocals have an ethereal quality, and mesh quite nicely with the lush instrumentals, giving the song a dreamy atmospheric quality.

[Verse 1]
How the hell’d it get so late?
Hold on, please wait
I’ll do, what it takes
Go all in, raise the stakes

Another weekend’s here
I’ll call you darling, call you dear

[Chorus]
Hey babe
That’s no reason to stay
I’ll come up w/ words to say
And we’ll always find a way to play
Come back and let’s do it right
We’ll get lost in the endless night
So come play just one more hand
I’ll take you to the promised land

[Verse 2]
How the hell’d I get this way?
Sun comes up, it’s another day
Time goes on, takes our pay
Doesn’t care what we have to say

Another week ends here
Oh I’ve felt freedom, I’ve felt fear

[Chorus]
Hey babe
That’s no reason to stay
I’ll come up w/ words to say
And we’ll always find a way to play
Come back and let’s do it right
We’ll get lost in the summer night
So come play just one more hand
I’ll take you to the promised land

Connect with David on Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on  Bandcamp / Apple Music / Google Play