The Sweetest Sound Of All
Everything is in disarray, the mess of a term ending but not ended, the chaos of a head full of mist and hazy thoughts, snatches of conversations brewing inside the clouds, the wonder of unspoken words and the echoes of yearsí of missed glances. Records and CDs are everywhere. Comic books litter the shelves and the floor. Pink and blue badges cascade from plastic bags like confetti. Itís a Sunday morning.

So did I ever tell you how much I love Sodastreamís A Minor Revival (Fortuna Pop)? No, I didnít think I ever did. Well it sounds like a Sunday morning. It sounds like the fine line between longing and love, like the cracked lips of waking dreams soaked in vinegar. Or, if you prefer, it sounds like Hefner taking an evening ride across Exmoor with Belle & Sebastian and the ghosts of the Triffids singing strangely skewed folk music. Sodastream make the kind of sound that reminds you of the blood in your heart, craft the kind of natural Pop that burrows gently beneath the surface of your skin to take up residence in your soul, softly kissing your arteries as it does so. Sodastream reverberate with the corrupted innocence of the youth you lost so long ago it might as well belong to someone else or at the very least to the myths of time, and so cause such delectable pain that you canít help but curl into the hurt and whisper forgiveness for all the heartache, for all the missed opportunities. Sodastream make you watch your memories unfurl like flags in the summer morning breeze, are like watching the films you made in your mind so long ago now finally rediscovered in musty attics and screening on the wall in Super 8 crackling magic. Thereís the fine line of reservoir blue, and there her whispering hair falling across the lens and your lips. Here are the tears. Here are the scars.

So did I ever tell you how much I love Sodastreamís A Minor Revival?

And did I ever tell you how much I love the Soft Setís Only Lovers Left Alive (Becalmed)? The Soft Set inhabit much the same geography as Sodastream, except they are more like the Go-Betweens (circa 1982/83) taking a stroll along a late night Portland Street with Felt and the ghosts of Josef K doing covers of Love songs. The Soft Set are knowing but know how to avoid sounding like smart arses: too many artists are too keen to show off how much they know that they end up sounding like boring reference books instead of something new and intriguing. The Soft Set are not like that. The Soft Set allow the projector to go out of focus, allow the shapes to blend and merge and take on new meaning. The Soft Set make ghosts out of noise and Pop out of those ghosts; they emerge with melodies that make you turn your head in recognition of the faces you loved once and forevermore; they collapse into dark corners of reverie where the lipstick traces taste of tears and you canít shake the feeling of If Only.

If only more Pop sounded like the Soft Set.

And did I ever tell you how much I love the Fairwaysí This Is Farewell (Matinee)? I know I mentioned them in the past. It was three years ago, and the San Francisco band had just released their Everything Is Alright album on Paris Caramel, a set which if I recall rightly I said was the sound of soft and seductive Pop. Well, no surprise then to inform you that this Matinee collection is more of the same. Only even better. There are still chiming inflections of fine Ď80s indiepop here (thereís even a peach of a cover of the wonderful ĎThe Rain Fell Downí by Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes), but now those references are joined by a more obvious nod to the sunshine influence of the West Coast Soft Pop sound of the Ď60s. It makes for the fine kind of listening that lifts you through these kinds of mornings; the kind of Pop that presses its warm hands to your cheeks and drops the sweetest of kisses on the tip of your nose. This isnít Pop that wants to snog and shag. Rather, itís the kind of Pop that understands the pleasure in restraint, that understands that what is left unsaid is often more memorable than what is not. Itís Pop that lies clothed beside you on top of the sheets, hands and feet not quite touching, revelling in the tiny sparks that cross the divide and that lull you eventually into slumber. Itís the kind of Pop that stays up for hours talking about everything and nothing, is the kind of Pop that whispers to you softly in the morning dew as the sun rises lazily over the deserted tree houses on the horizon; the kind of Pop that knows when to say goodbye and good luck. And the added bittersweet beauty is that This Is Farewell is exactly what it says it is; a last lingering look and a hand raised in goodbye by a band most never knew existed. Sometimes thatís the sweetest sound of all.

© 2004 Alistair Fitchett