Soft Shoulder


Soft Shoulder Smile Building’s Exit LP

James Fella and friends have been cranking out SOFT SHOULDER releases in the Arizona desert for close to two decades now (like, a lot of them—I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lathe operation somewhere that is single-handedly being kept in business by this crew), generally sprouting through various cracks between collapsing improv avant-punk and blown-out no wave antagonism, but the more overtly FALL-indebted turn they’ve taken over the past year or two is by far my favorite incarnation of the project. Smile Building’s Exit opener “Raw Time” is pulled along by a gouging, infinite loop bass line that’s simultaneously filthy and funky, like A FRAMES with a serious GANG OF FOUR fixation, abetted by a spring-loaded disco beat and Fella’s stream-of-Mark E. vocals that sound like they were recorded on an answering machine circa 1987, and “Narrow Yellow Slip” follows a similarly wavering line, with deadpan-shouty lyrical ruminations about PO boxes punctuated by stabbing synth squeals, while “Dual Deck’s Decay” adds some skronking sax and extra-trebly guitar clang to its droning Messthetics-gone-Krautrock outro. Total prole art threat damage.

Soft Shoulder Formerly on Fluorescent Paper LP

Latest LP from this Sonoran noise rock recording project, who have apparently been going at it for around fifteen years now. This LP is made up of fourteen tracks, most of which clock in under two minutes, and touches on noisy post-punk, dance-y synth punk, and no wave. In its best moments it sounds a little like the A FRAMES with a late ’90s JON SPENCER production—in its worst, it sounds like the FAINT. I don’t know if I’ll be dipping back into this one, but the time I spent with it was enjoyable enough.

Soft Shoulder Copy Machine Fall Down 7″

Gilgongo Records mainman James Fella is an industrious sort. His label is constantly releasing interesting, occasionally great, art-damaged records by an array of projects. His own group, SOFT SHOULDER, is the best of these, and for the last year, they have been on a tear, including two excellent LPs. This 7″ is the third single in the last twelve months, and it continues their streak. Both sides were stitched together from remotely-recorded parts, pandemic-style. “Copy Machine” features the band’s current line-up for a quick primer of their fractured aesthetic, while “Fall Down” brings in past members and associates for free jazz-like deconstruction. New LP coming soon!

Soft Shoulder Not the New One LP

Certain records require listening at specific times of the day. I kept trying to listen to this LP in the evening and it just wasn’t working for me. Now listening to it on a cold-but-sunny Sunday morning while I drink a steaming cup of tea, it all makes sense. It’s like having a nice conversation. The vocals are sing-spoken in a relaxed tone while the minimalist music peppily and jerkily moves them along. It is jazzy math rock with art-punk musings. Not the New One is a collection of songs from many different versions of the group recorded between 2015–2019, but it does not feel disjointed. It keeps you entertained and even gets you out of your chair to dance a little bit.

Soft Shoulder Aerosol Can Stand EP

The connecting concept across both originals here are repurposed shards from the FALL and the HOMOSEXUALS, each serving as springboards for the fast/easy/cheap immediacy on display. Hard to argue with knock-’em-dead shit like that, though it’s merely the seed, not the whole plant, from which SOFT SHOULDER sprouts nicely. All told, it serves their mad scientist tendencies quite well. Have a go, you’ll live longer.