LA’s Soft Blue Shimmer takes the dulcet tones of dream pop and the grinding noise of shoegaze to blend their own blissful yet heart-wrenching music. These two polar opposites find harmony and discord in their full length debut Heaven Inches Away. Although one may describe their sound as relaxing – especially with Meredith Ramond’s smooth, hazy vocals – there’s a lingering tension brought about by the shoegaze riffs generated by Charlie Crowley and Kenzo Cardenas’ urgent drums. All these elements converge and clash together to make this 9-track listing such an engaging listen. The band avoids the pitfall of sounding stale by constantly pushing these conflicting emotions together, and the result is nothing short of mesmerizing. It’s dreamy yet strained, drenched in noise but still full of hope.
“Space Heater” opens the album with a radiating noise of synths, followed by a blast of punchy drums that opens up “Emerald Bells”. The overall texture of Soft Blue Shimmer’s dream pop is hazy, where the guitars make up most of the soundscape. While some acts make heavy use of glimmering synths to create a soft and lush sound, the band relies mostly on Meredith’s voice and reverb. How she cuts through the noise and elevates the mood of each song is impressive on its own.
“Chihiro” is a song named after the protagonist in Ghibli’s Spirited Away, which is fitting for the wistful nature of the song. It’s as if you’re floating in a daydream or fantasy. To top it off, the same tension in the instrumentation is echoed in its lyrics as well: “asleep I see you in my dreams / I know it doesn’t mean anything”.
The same motif also appears in “Cherry-Cola Abyss”, a song that is rife with moody guitar dissonance that almost sounds post-punk. In it Meredith expresses conflicting emotions of love: “delighted, broken, quiet, blissful / I feel it all and all at once”.
The later half of the album delves into darker tones and riffs. “Musubi” feels more erratic and unstable, despite its poetic and symmetrical lyrics. “Waves At Dume” churns and rumbles like a storm pounding at your inner consciousness.
The album closes with “Adore The Distance”, which uses unnerving riffs to outline the pain in Meredith’s wistful voice. A song that maintains hope despite the distance, yet teeters on the brink. A reflection of our distant and lonely times.
“Heaven Inches Away” is undoubtedly blissful, yet there’s a feeling that the heaven described in it feels so close yet so far. A choice that I appreciate more as it grounds itself in reality. An overall great debut and cohesive experience from Soft Blue Shimmer.