Holy 1960s, Batman! Chances are if the psychedelic era of music and the early seeds of hard rock are the sparks that set your soul aflame, you’ll wanna strike a match on Soft Speaker‘s sophomore beauty, “Vortrobos.”
Throw in strong hints of post-punk and prog rock, and you’ve got a basic idea of the wonder you’ll behold with this album. Imagine a collaboration between Joy Division and Cream, and it’d probably not be too far off from what Soft Speaker brings us.
And what a wealth it is! The Chicago quartet released its debut LP, “I’ll Tend Your Garden,” last April and, in a recent interview, said they already have material for a THIRD album. Not to mention all of this is happening while adhering to an intriguing mythos that all their music is a modernized, electrified translation of tunes written in the 1930s.
Because of the deep bass grooves on opening track “Fiend,” you’ll naturally want to draw contemporary comparisons to the Arctic Monkeys. The bands share many influences, but ultimately take them in different directions. I find Soft Speaker’s catalog to be significantly more immersive, as a good portion of songs on “Vortrobos” exceed four minutes, and the music possesses an abstract quality that keeps it firmly anchored to the psychedelic era by which it’s inspired.
The title track is one interesting departure from the rest, a percussive organ instrumental closing out the album’s first half. “A Troubled Summer” lends a soft beginning to the second half and most closely resembles something out of modern times, but the band’s retro mission resumes with “Ask the Guild” through closing track “(He Wore a) Lion’s Hide.” The album ender provides one of the tastiest riffs in the bunch. However, no tune on the album is quite as amazing as “Jeju Island,” highlighted by Thin Lizzy-style guitar harmonies and a wonderfully Cream-y vocal center.