Softswitch - Happiness (Cover Artwork)


Happiness (2018)

self released

I enjoy receiving submissions for reviews because often it leads me to push myself out of my typical musical comfort zone. It is also a fantastic way to be introduced to new music, some of which has stuck with me years after the recommendation. Other times you find yourself diving into a musical project that just does not resonate with you as a listener. After repeated listens, the latter has been my experience with Winnipeg’s “synth-noise-punk foursome” Softswitch.

Softswitch stay on the heavier side of the “synth-punk” spectrum. The band leans on a heavy alternative grunge influence that feels similar to The Pixies, which makes sense, as Steve Albini mixed Happiness with Bob Weston credited for mastering. Sonically the album sounds great, the production is clear and thick, and captures the appropriate level of noisy-grunge punch that the band seems to be chasing after.

The downfall for me here is partially the redundancy of the song structures, but is mostly centered on the monotonous and droning vocals. The lead vocals are delivered in a style that I would compare more to spoken word than singing. There is no melody or engagement here to draw the listener further into the songs, which is unfortunate. The style reminds me of the band Cake having a dinner party with Mr. Oizo, and I know for some people out there that is a compliment, but it is a miss for me.

Softswitch are not a bad band by any means, this record is simply just not for me. For the listeners who may be more entrenched into this particular style of grungy synth influenced post punk, Happiness would probably be quite enjoyable. Musically the band is solid and the production quality is impressive, but with both the lack of emotional engagement and melody of the vocals I would find it difficult to continue to revisit Happiness for repeated listens.