Softcult take it back to the ‘90s with dreamy guitars and empowering lyrics
Vicky Greer
21:00 15th April 2021

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How do you combine the lingering dream pop of Cocteau Twins and The Cure with revolutionary lyrics of ‘90s riot grrrl pioneers like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile?

Just ask Mercedes and Phoenix Arn Horn, the twin sisters who have spent Canada’s lockdown in their home recording studio, making music and building their latest project, Softcult. Their debut EP, Year Of The Rat, arrives this Friday (16 April), and it might be the dreamiest record to fire up a rebellious spirit that you’ve heard in a long while.

Opening with the anti-misogynist ‘Another Bish’, Softcult take a deeper look at the language we use towards women. The soaring chorus of “I won't sit, I won’t stay/ Roll over, obey/ I’m just another bish that you'll never tame” is delightfully empowering in a way that can be traced back to their ‘90s influences. The bonding of hazy guitars, drums and a solid bassline give modern dream pop a sharper edge with its deeply satisfying sound.

This DIY aesthetic is used to Softcult's advantage throughout Year Of The Rat, stepping out from the often over-polished pop-rock of many artists on the scene today, while also showing expertise at what they do. Written, produced and recorded entirely by Mercedes and Phoenix, it’s a shining example of what artists can achieve when they have their creative freedom.

Moving into ‘Gloomy Girl’, we come to the true highlight of the EP. Here, the duo deal with the theme of depression and the effect it so often has on our relationships with friends and family. Opening with the killer line “Hang my head until my neck breaks”, it’s the unfiltered representation that we need in new music. Skilfully capturing the feeling of guilt in the chorus with “I should go out and see the sun/ Yeah, I know/ I should go out and be more fun/ But I don't”, Softcult have a showstopper on their hands with ‘Gloomy Girl’.

Without stopping to rest, they move straight into ‘Take It Off’; this is where Softcult hit their stride of evoking a relatable feeling of anger through even the dreamiest songs. Opening with the lyrics “You don’t want a girlfriend, you just want a doll/ buy her pretty dresses, take her to the mall”, here they rage against the objectification of women. This is the song that will really catch the attention of the listener who can relate to being treated like nothing more than a body.

While the final two tracks from the EP don’t stand out in quite the same way as the others, ‘Young Forever’ and ‘Bird Song’ are still a strong testament to the musical skill of Mercedes and Phoenix Arn Horn. While they do take a different musical approach to their punk rock heritage, their insightful and often biting lyrics succeed in feeding the fire that was set by feminist pioneers decades ago, and their music feels more and more relevant to the modern listener. Year Of The Rat is a strong debut on the whole, that sets Softcult up for a meteoric rise.

Year Of The Rat is out 16 April via Easy Life Records.

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Photo: Press