Soft Kill’s latest album Dead Kids R.I.P. City is a special one. It’s a record that’s a tribute to a city and its people, a voice sharing the stories of the downtrodden. A lament those who are about to give up or have since tragically passed. It’s clear from its overall sonic aesthetic that the Portland quartet shared a greater purpose in crafting this piece. Each song stretches itself beyond the confines of post-punk in order to tell these stories, painstakingly curating its sound to fit the emotions of the people and the city that it was inspired by.
Despite its overly dark atmosphere, it isn’t only gloom that lines up this record. “Pretty Face” gives off an upbeat vibe with its bubbling bass rhythm and restless synths. Tobias Graves’ lyrics give off an urgent feeling as he sings with a certain strain : “I never thought I’d see you fall and stay there on the ground”. Similarly, “Wanting War” feels more angry and confused than depressed. It’s fidgety rhythm expressing a strong conviction that pulses in its search for a “single thing worth fighting for.”
Another thing that this record does that stands out from its peers is how the subject matter matches the heaviness of its dreary, often gothic soft-pop melodies. The vocal isn’t merely used as a droning instrument anymore, instead it’s here to carry the burden of expressing these people’s lives. “Oil Burner” tells the story of people suffering from drug abuse and suicidal thoughts, all accompanied by gentle guitar arpeggios, pounding percussions and hazy vocals. It’s the kind of song that contrasts its burdened songwriting with airy textures, a subtle hint of beauty in tragedy that doesn’t undermine its tragedy.
“I Need The Pain” closes out the album with a resolute and poetic voice that’s led by acoustic strings and piano keys. In just a few words Graves expresses the thesis of this record: “The news of those I loved passing / It’s crushing but I needed the pain / I’ve lost more than most / Surrounded here by ghosts”.
Other highlights on this album is “Matty Rue” featuring Adam Klopp of Choir Boy. A glossy and cinematic synth-pop track that oozes with style that can make you shiver. “Crimey” is full of rich layers carefully stitched together in a dancy synth tune that sheds light on the crime underground of the city, where the desperate struggle to make ends meet.
Dead Kids, R.I.P. City is full of great stories and wonderful sounds. Soft Kill has crafted and depicted their own society and experiences through song in a way that anyone, even thousands of miles away can sympathize. Truly a masterful achievement.