A mental hug
Soft Palms is the new band of Julia Kugel (The Coathangers, White Woods) and her husband and former The Growlers member Scott Montoya. From their debut album Soft Palms, they previously released a few songs like “Baddy” and “Rainbows.” The group also released a single with a very important message, “Wash Your Hands.” Singer Julia Kugel describes the style of the album on their website: “My goal was to create something that sounded like a mental hug, a sonic embrace.” Fans can now find out how a mental hug feels like. The eight-track album seems a little short with a playtime of only 32 minutes, but Soft Palms uses them wisely.
Many times, the first song on the album will set the mood for the rest of the album. The first track on Soft Palms is “Baddy,” which was already released as a single. With exciting instruments, Kugel and Montoya introduce their new sound to the audience. “Baddy” is a dreamy, soft song that harmonies with Kugel’s voice. Kugel’s voice gets almost filled with childlike wonder in “Rainbows.” The sound has a space-like feeling to it, which leads to a unique and creative combination that can occupy the attention of the listeners.
“Oh Then Then” is probably the perfect song to just lay back and let one’s thoughts run free. Maybe those thoughts run to Hawaii because of the classical Hawaiian element’s featured in the song. But even on a relaxing day in Hawaii, there can be “Rain & Thunder,” so the title of the next track seems to fit pretty well. “Rain & Thunder” is darker than the other songs, darkness that a thunderstorm often brings. The sound gives the audience the feel of an old western movie when the villain first makes an eerie entrance.
Kugel and Montoya seem to take from 2000 indie rock with the song “Pretty Dancer;” the first chords of the song sound like the style of indie rock bands like Mando Diao and the Kaiser Chiefs. It’s great when bands that were formed recently (meaning in the late 2010s) take influences from every stage of the genre. But just when the listeners get used to a sound, they get presented something completely different. “Bone Dry” is a lot more rock-influenced, and the iconic “boom chi-ah” leads the listener to a smoked-filled bar with some burlesque dancer in a martini glass.
After the bar, Soft Palms takes the audience slow dancing. “Somewhere” invites the listener to grab their significant other and just dance the night away, slowly and so close, and like the last line of the song: “My baby will never let go.” The album ends with “Not Love,” another soft, beautifully composed song. For the last time, the album proves it really feels like a little mental hug by Soft Palms.
Soft Palms masters the art of taking the listener to a different place in Soft Palms. Both Kugel and Montoya show that their creativity has no limits, and how amazing they work together. Their self-titled debut album can surely convince fans of The Growlers and The Coathangers.