Portland’s Soft Kill have shared their second single Pretty Face, which is lifted from their forthcoming album ‘Dead Kids, R.I.P. City’. The LP is their long awaited follow up to 2018’s ‘Savior’. Says the band’s Tobias Grave, “Pretty Face was written immediately after finding out about the loss of our friend Zachary Delong. It recounts some time we spent together on the edge of oblivion, late 2011 into the first weeks of 2012. Survivors guilt pouring out into song form” – ‘Relax your pretty face boy, the pain has left you.’
“We shot this to be a lyric video but we worked in some scenes, starting in Washington and traveling into the far north section of Portland, stopping by the abandoned dog track at Portland Meadows and ending at the motel made famous by Drugstore Cowboy. The imagery will resonate with some, I’m sure. The song is one we’ve played live for two years and it’s got a big cult following without ever having a studio version circulating.”
Pretty Face encapsulates listeners with its steady pulse of bass and cinematic-like guitar melodies, taking a slightly left field approach to post-punk with its triumphant and upbeat energy while still channeling the doom/gloom sound Portland’s Soft Kill has built their identity around. The song reflects the darker side of what the band has experienced the past few years. The single follows Soft Kill’s return last month when they dropped the lead doom pop single Roses All Around. It’s dark yet luminous in every sense, from its driving percussive beats, harmonic grooves and melodies, while also creating an opportunity to openly discuss its sociopolitical message that is especially prominent now as Portland has become the epicenter of unrest these past few months. Watch the video clip for Pretty Face via YouTube below.
Soft Kill had been growing with pretty much every record – but a deep maturation, achieving a level of emotional intensity that, even for a band known for exactly that, was nothing short of awe-inspiring and inarguably a high water mark. The question then, was how do they possibly follow that up? Well, here we are, two years later with ‘Dead Kids, R.I.P. City,’ and we can all set down our worry beads. Soft Kill, Tobias Grave, Conrad Vollmer, Owen Glendower, Daniel Deleon and Nicole Colbath, have in fact put any such concerns commandingly to rest.
Two years in the making, desperate, redemptive, its contrast of light and shadow favoring the latter, ‘Dead Kids, R.I.P. City‘ is like no other album in the genre, featuring the brave and abandoned, the tender and the afflicted, all teetering in memory on the edge of the city. For all the sadness and pain of addiction haunting it, however, the record, by its very existence, proves that hope doesn’t necessarily win but that, even if at great cost, it can. It’s what makes ‘Dead Kids, R.I.P. City’ so powerful beyond just the scope of its dark luminous sound and indelible melodies, and is one of the many reasons you’ll carry it with you.
A story odyssey of sorts told in ten parts, ten songs – each track essentially a character – ‘Dead Kids, R.I.P City,’ produced by David Trumfio (Built To Spill, Wilco) and mastered by the legendary Howie Weinberg (The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana), explores, through a beguiling mix of personal memory, allegory, and narrative structures by turns both poetic and stinging, a long and complicated relationship with a dark version of Portland OR. It’s songs that tell of the fractured and fragile legacies of those lost during the city’s last couple decades as it moves from soggy backwater to unheard of growth and tech-fueled transformation. From the frantic cascade of guitar that carries Roses All Around relentlessly toward the track’s vision of rain-filled gutters overflowing with dashed dreams, to the chiming sorrow and yearning of the steadily pounding Inverness where we find a strung out young man sitting in a wheelchair somewhere in downtown Portland accepting what fate has brought him, to Crimey’s darkly joyous dance groove and the one-two swan-song punch of apocalyptic dreamscape Oil Burner and the mournful, elegiac I Needed the Pain, you’ll find the honesty so hard fought for and won through the crucible of Savior paying further dividends on Dead Kids, R.I.P. City. Featuring guest vocals by Choir Boy’s Adam Klopp on Matty Rue and Tamaryn on Floodgate.
Whether it’s Hooper Detox choked with cigarette smoke, the grim and grimy downtown doorways, abandoned industrial buildings on N.Interstate, the confinement cells at Inverness Jail or a midnight apartment building rooftop in Northwest, the scenes that backdrop these characters’ stories offer a scuffed amber portrait of a Portland that is no more. It’s the individuals themselves, however, some dead none forgotten, that turn this tour through Tobias’s past into a fever dream memoriam. Though inescapably nostalgic, it’s the type nostalgia that burns with immediacy, like a post-punk John Steinbeck crossed with Robert Smith crossed with Gus Van Sant.
‘Dead Kids, R.I.P. City’ will be out on November 20th via Cercle Social Records/Cobraside.