Soft Science – Detour

Soft Science – Detour

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Detour does not sound like an album created by a group of people who released their debut nearly thirteen years ago, and I can’t really think of a bigger compliment to give a band that makes the kind of energetic guitar pop that Sacramento’s Soft Science do. It might explain, however, why the band seems so aware of their strengths, in control of every melodic turn they take on Detour through ten songs that are uncomplicated but never under-thought.

There’s an old Britpop ‘fun fact’ that on Blur’s debut album, Leisure, singer Damon Albarn used ‘day/say/play’ rhymes nearly fifty times. That astonishing nugget jumped to mind with the first words Katie Haley sings on the opener, “Nothing.” “I gave it all away/now has come the day/there nothing left to….” But then, right when “say” seemed to be the obvious conclusion, Haley instead circled back with “give.” Coming from an album with Britpop in its DNA, it almost feels like a wink toward that kind of predilection for easy lyrical outs. Detour’s directness isn’t so simple. Projected against the music’s melodic rush, Haley’s lyrics throughout often deal with personal trials or more serious matters, adding weight to charging confections like “Feel” over repeated listens.

The second half of Detour kicks off with “Blue,” which sees guitarist Matt Levine ride a dirty chiming guitar line that sounds like a lost early Stone Roses B-side (that’s a sincere compliment, the Roses’ B-sides from that era were top notch) while Haley, bassist Mason Demusey, and drummer Ross Levine conjure Copacetic-era Velocity Girl. In general, Copacetic might be a good reference point for newcomers to Soft Science, in that they (much like Velocity Girl did) wield that British, Cadbury-sweet sensibility, but filter it through an American alt-rock approach. You can practically hear those two elements tugging back and forth from the verse to the chorus in “Gone,” or pushing together in the sleeper highlight “Matter.” Detour is one of those albums that show energy and maturity don’t have to be enemies in indie rock.


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