A town as real as any other
22-year-old Bridie Monds-Watson, better known by her stage name SOAK, is as far from the typical singer-songwriter as one could be. Her vibrant and unique take on folk, indie and soul based music is far past the singer’s years. SOAK, which literally combines the words soul and folk, is an example of how the young prodigy puts her mind straight into the music she creates. Her sophomore album, Grim Town, follows the release of her 2014 EP Blud and her 2015 debut album Before We Forgot How To Dream, which earned the singer a prestige Mercury Music Prize nomination. The Northern Irish artist is able to tenderly convey her deep feelings throughout the 15-track Grim Town. From distant love to divorce, each track holds a piece of Monds-Watsons heart for her fans to learn and grow from. The album is a tour of a town called Grim Town that the singer created to portray her deepest feelings.
The album leads with “All Aboard,” a segway into this world that has been created right in front of us. A train conductor of sorts talks over a loudspeaker while passengers get settled in for their trip to Grim Town. The conductor speaks not only in a monotone voice but has nothing but dreary announcements to give the passengers. A minute and a half of what seems like the beginning of the end for anyone traveling to this forsaken place. The first real musical track on the album is “Get Set Go Kid.” A whimsical number that combines the essence of folk guitar and lifted vocals. “Everybody Loves You” can be translated into what could be a hard goodbye to an old love. SOAK sings, ”Everybody wants you/ not me today/ because I’m done” as slight percussion and mouse-like drums lead the singer into the chorus where backup singers join in with “Why do I still care?”
Lead single “Knock Me Off My Feet” is a bit more springy than the rest of Grim Town. Finding its way nestled into the side streets of this crazy town, the young singer pays tribute to the small-town culture and how we can find a bit of ourselves in those dark allies. The most somber version of the singer can be found on “Crying Your Eyes Out,” where melodic piano and vocals go hand and hand as the singer goes through spirals of self-anxiety and depression. “Valentine Schmalentine” and “YBFTBYT” are both quieter tracks on the album that convey the deepest feelings about love and giving up.
The album ends with “Nothing Looks the Same.” The track takes everything we have learned about Grim Town and packs it all into a package of emotional pain as the singer explains how she lost herself a bit along the way and is ready for a new start. As SOAK and the listeners metaphorically say good-bye to the forsaken town, the singer lets herself shed their unwanted layers to stay in this town forever as she travels back to the mainland with the same train conductor from the beginning of the album.
It gets more and more impressive to see younger singer-songwriters put every piece of their souls out into the open for the world to devour. SOAK is an exception to the rule, her soul is far older than her body and her light-years of knowledge already outweigh plenty of other writers in our current day and age. Grim Town plays directly to its title and takes its listeners on a tour from start to finish.