Music Review: Soft Fangs, The Light

Published on March 11th, 2016 in: Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Brian Baker


When an artist uses “fangs” in its name, you expect a body of work with teeth. For Soft Fangs, a nom-de-plume for Brooklyn, N.Y. denizen John Lutkevich, his debut full-length album, The Light, is lacking that necessary bite.

Don’t let that deter you. It’s not that this spellbinding, art popper is of poor quality, but when coming into the world of shoegaze from a heavy guitar background, The Light is culture shock.

Lutkevich’s debut is a slow boil right from the onset. “Dragon Soap” feels like the start of a spaghetti Western, especially with the perfunctory first word, “bullets.” There’s a whine to Lutkevich’s vocals, a gasping Ben Gibbard after one too many bourbons.

Speaking of Death Cab for Cutie, there’s a throwback to Death Cab on the following track, “The Air,” with a hint of early Oasis riffs. The guitars on this track are a redemption from the slow beginning to “Dragon Soap”.

Lutkevich’s acoustics break out of the shoegaze mold on “Golden.” It’s a little more up-tempo with head-bopping keyboard cuts and heavier electric guitar blended nicely with the acoustic guitar. Still, one common thread throughout the album, which was recorded in Lutkevich’s childhood home, is the ample lo-fi noise.

The Light smacks of late ’90s Eels rather than the polished feel of Radiohead. Mark Oliver Everett, a.k.a. E, sang about life, loss, and death. So does Soft Fangs.

There’s a somber undertow that pulls you out of your joy. It’s mellow, but not West Coast mellow. It often feels like the soundtrack for a Jack Kerouac novel, if it were set in the 21st century. “Gone Fishing” is evidence of this. It has a whine to it that wins you over with time as the adventure meanders through the brooks, vales, dales, and roads of Americana.

As the album ages, the tracks continue with a nature theme and the Eels vibe continues. With a poppy backbeat, the acoustic guitar warbles on “Back of a Horse” and permeates the following track, “The Wilderness,” a drone that is offset by “Get a Job.” That is a quick jab, and more optimistic with its time. It’s only 1:36 long.

“Haunts” is the gold nugget on the album, a breezy rollick that could backdrop a trip to Coney Island. It’s sung in a higher key than the rest of the album, which is refreshing, given the monotony that could potentially afflict The Light.

“Too Many Stars” pulls its intro from a music box, and winds up closing with the melodic hums of Lutkevich. Finally, the title track brings the album together with a great backbeat, harmonious keyboards, and an actual croon from Lutkevich’s vocals.

Overall, The Light slips into that in-between state: it becomes background music to your life much like a baseball game during summer chores around the house or that sudden burst of energy that makes you trash talk the catcher while at bat.

Emotions, both good and bad, saturate the lyrics, almost to the point of Hurricane Sandy levels. Soft Fangs is a blend of Sufjan Stevens, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Eels, not Radiohead, as some suggest.

It’s a bizarre combination, and even though there is no bite to it, it’s worth a play or five in your playlist.

Soft Fangs’ The Light will be released March 18 by Exploding In Sound/Disposable America. 


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One Response to “Music Review: Soft Fangs, The Light”

  1. Now Hear This: Michelle Obama's Single, Xena's Gay (Duh) and More!:
    March 27th, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    […] Fangs’ debut album, The Light, also comes out […]

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