If you only listen to one song today, make it “King Porus” by SoftSpot (2014, from the album MASS). SoftSpot is an indie rock band from Brooklyn whose exact subclassification is hard to pin down. They have elements of dream pop, elements of “stoner rock”, elements of post-rock, and many others. However, it wouldn’t be fair to classify them as any of those. They describe themselves as “Old School New Age Art Rock”. There’s a lo-fi grunge band from Halifax (who are also worth checking out) by the name of Soft Spot, but this isn’t that. This is SoftSpot. The band started in Brooklyn back in 2009 when North Carolinians and long-time friends Sarah Kinlaw and Brian Keller Jr joined forces. A few years later, they added drummer Blaze Beteh (who came to Brooklyn by way of Atlanta). They put out a handful of records on their own imprint Zen as Fuck Records, and their friend Jonathan Campolo always did the artwork for the sleeves. Later still, Campolo joined the band on synths. Earlier this year, the band came down to western North Carolina, where they recorded their new album in what has only been described as “a makeshift studio on the top of a mountain somewhere in the Appalachians” I’d never heard of this band until recently, and they’re one of the 160 bands who will be playing at the fifth annual Hopscotch Music Festival this September in downtown Raleigh. They’re playing Saturday night, September 6 from 10:30 to 11:30 at Slim’s. Today’s song is the first song from the new album, and without further ado, this is that song: When taken as a whole, the song sort of reminds me of the magnificent chamber/post-rock 12-piece Altos. They were my surprise favorite band of Hopscotch 2012, but they’ve sadly fallen off the face of the earth. Part of the reason that this song reminds me of Altos is that “King Porus” has several distinct and completely different parts. Also, the way they’ve produced this, it sounds like there’s much more than four players. It starts off sounding a bit like a folk song, with pretty straightforward instruments, and Kinlaw’s vocals a bit on the low end of the register. Somewhere around 1:10, there’s a slight change. A guitar bit gets a little brighter. Something else happens very subtly, and it goes from sounding more like a psychedelic rock song than a folk song. Then there’s a vocal bit behind the main vocals. For that, Kinlaw is really high in the register. That’s where it starts to sound just a bit like dream-pop.
There’s sort of a long bit there where the main components are her angelic vocalizing, cymbals, synths. It’s at the point in the song when it might be called “middle eight”, but when we come out of that bit, it’s nothing at all like what happened earlier in the song. When we emerge out of that dreamy bit, everything is much bigger than it was before and Kinlaw’s vocals are still pretty high. And they’re doubled and delayed. Everything sounds really enormous. It’s almost reminiscent of the Arcade Fire stuff on Funeral. It’s that bit. The bit from about 3:15 to about 4:08, where everything is big and anthemic. I love that bit, and it wish it would go on like that for a few more minutes. Alas, that bit ends, and we get to the coda, which settles everything down and tidies everything up.
You can buy a digital download or a vinyl copy of the album via the SoftSpot bandcamp page. Hopscotch is downsized a bit this year due to renovations in one of the large venues. From a logistics standpoint, this means that there are fewer tickets and wristbands available this year. There are still some left, but if you want to attend, you should hurry up and secure your tickets. Check out all of the ticketing options here.