Chicago band Soft Ledges was formed in 2015 by songwriter Shelley Miller (vocals, piano, guitar) and Chris Geisler (bass). The band, joined at live shows by drummer Raul Cotaquispe, is set to release their self-titled debut album November 18. Soft Ledges relegates its music to noisy, oppressively sad passages that bleed boiling anguish. Foreboding and dark in places, it is more sad, like a weight on the soul. Depressing music is often the most beautiful to me, because it functions as an emotional release.
There’s a sort of underlying asperity in this music, it lies low and then whelms up and then overwhelms. The music is about depression, tension and the subsequent release, and it is beautiful. This is not quiet desperation, however. This is music about life, and all the sadness, rage, death and any other stuff you come across in your period, with even a ray of hope shining through. It’s all here.
The music swirls around and builds and builds, and then swirls until you’re so caught up in it that you can’t leave until it’s all over, and at about this point the music breaks. It explodes in a fury of brilliant effects, noises and passion. It’s a sort of surrogate emotion in and of itself. Some of us may have been here in our lives at some time.
This album will pull emotions out of you that you never knew you were capable of feeling. Every so often music comes around that is capable of completely shattering your mind’s fragile framework and take you over. This is that album; demanding the listener’s attention from the opening narrative.
There are these sort of haunting guitar soundscapes underneath a gritty, expressive and emotional voice that sings in an almost warm whisper before breaking into a full-blooded howl. And out of nowhere transcendent keyboards, and beating drums take over and the may mood shift. Changing from a story with the feeling of bleakness to one of hope.
What is so stunning about this album? It’s that every note is played with an immense amount of conviction and it makes for a perfectly complete body of work. The narration is woven so beautifully in with the music. Every passage, every bass flurry or keyboard sound or bass drum hit or electric guitar strum feels like it’s going to explode out of the speakers.
The buildups are captivating; it makes the listener not want to press skip. It leaves me, at times, breathless, like I have forgotten I am a part of this world and am an object in something sublimely larger than life. It’s a dark, edgy body of work that requires numerous listens to wholly understand.
There are also many unexpected and exiting twists in this album as well. Just when it seems like you are getting used to the dark and oppressive tones, a swift change in tempo and vocal dynamics will bring you right back on your toes and keep you fueled for the rest of the listen.
The whole thing could very well be listened through in one sitting, and that’s not so hard because it’s possible to get sucked into and not want to come back out. Soft Ledges leaves a lasting impression on the listener. Their textures and production quality easily hypnotizes and keeps the listener enthralled as the songs progress.
By the end of it all you’re bound to leave with a deep melancholy feeling of loss. It’s rare to come across such music that can hit all the right notes to trigger a response within the listener, and essential songs like “Tear Me Down”, “Orion”, “Long Way to the Ground”, “Seven Stories”, “Highlight Reel” and “Don’t Wait”, will have you in a different state of mind when the final sounds taper off.
And while the self-titled Soft Ledges album can easily be one of the most morbid, dark, and sad pieces ever written, that’s also why it leaves such a lasting impression that sets it above a lot of music. Sometimes the saddest music is also the most beautiful.