It was only a few months ago that I was writing about Soft Speaker‘s first full-length album, I’ll Tend Your Garden. Now, a scant six months later, they’re back with a new collection of tunes that are quite different from their last release, while staying true to the sound they created for themselves. Vortrobos is eight tracks of jam-heavy rock that improves in some areas that I’ll Tend Your Garden was lacking in, but mostly feels like the next logical step for the band.
The biggest issue for me the last time was that the vocals were buried underneath layers upon layers of sound. So when I clicked on play and heard Paul Foreman’s voice coming through crystal clear on “Fiend,” I knew that this would be more enjoyable. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the aesthetic of having his voice buried, it added a nice bit of mystery, but he has such a nice voice. Why hide it?
The guitars on this record are even louder and crazier than they were before. Nick Rocchio takes shredding to another level on the Cream-like “Jeju Island.” There are great transitions from his crazy swirling solos to a spring reverb that seem effortless and sound amazing. If the whole album were just Foreman playing instrumentals, it would be worth the price.
On the title track, “Vortrobos,” the band head to familiar territory. This track reminds me a lot of “Pagan Pastimes,” and that’s not bad. I really dig that tune. This is a pure instrumental, and it gets a bit spooky and I like that. The band does a good job of mixing the musical compositions together. If the music doesn’t call for words, don’t try to force them in. A interesting instrumental number is way better than a boring song about a cat or something.
The vocals on “Ask The Guild” make me think of Matt Bellamy of Muse when he’s reaching up for those high notes. There’s still a lot of high-octane shredding going on here, but the way it ends and the band moves into the soft and sweet opening of “Breathless (In The Rain)” is perfect. The harmonies are fantastic, and I love the lyrics:
We could die, breathless in the rain Light the trash on fire, cross it off the list of things to burn. I know what you’re thinking now. Sharpening your knives I can stop anytime I want.
You’d never guess the two songs were by the same band, but they go together sublimely.
Soft Speaker display a amazing work ethic dropping two full-length records in a calendar year, and I applaud them for that. As a young band, the need is greater to strike while the iron is hot, and strike they have. Vortrobos is a very strong second effort that builds on all the things the band does well and corrects some of the things they don’t. This new album is better than I’ll Tend Your Garden in most imagineable ways, and the band’s growth in both ability and confidence is a delight to hear.
The release show for this album is coming up on November 19th at Beat Kitchen. Headshadow, another good Chicago band, will also be playing. I’ll be interested to find out if I like this show better than the set I heard Soft Speaker play at Empty Bottle for the Deli’s Best of Chicago showcase. They sounded good, but at a certain point it all started to feel repetitive. Find out for yourself and pick up Vortrobos at the merch table.