SOAK’s sophisticated debut album makes complex issues seem so simple, and this, not the youth of Bridie Monds-Watson, is what makes the album so mesmerising.
Lots has been written about the youthfulness of Northern Ireland’s latest prodigy. At nineteen, Bridie Monds-Watson, known as SOAK, is on the brink of great things; her debut album Before We Forgot How To Dream is daring, uplifting, and at times simply beautiful, something not necessarily expected on a record with focuses on divorce, loneliness and broken relationships.
After opening with ‘My Brain’, second track ‘B a noBody’ provides the first highlight of the album. “Be just like me/Be a nobody” is the standout lyric in this absorbing and delicate tale, which builds in an almost anthemic manner, the drums providing the power to the unique tones of Monds-Watson.
The third track, ‘Blud’, was one of SOAK’s first releases, and discusses the divorce of her parents. It offers a perspective often forgotten about; “You’ve got a problem/I can’t fix it/Hear the anger through the ceiling”, and with every slide up and the down the guitar neck audible, you can feel the emotion the song. ‘Wait’ makes the most of strings and the piano to accompany what really is another touching track, and it is songs like this that make it easy to see why SOAK was nominated for the BBC Sound of 2015. Although she eventually lost out to Years & Years, there is no doubt that the nomination will have helped her commercially.
Also helping her out commercially is ‘Sea Creatures’, released as the lead on an EP not so long ago. It is clear that is track was made to sound radio-friendly, and in many ways this is the most disappointing song on Before We Forgot How To Dream. The record is strong enough on its own to not need a shiny, over-produced track like ‘Sea Creatures’; it is not as raw as the rest of the album.
Having said this, without the plays ‘Sea Creatures’ has had on stations such as Radio 2 and 6 Music, there would probably be no appearance with Jools Holland on Later… and there probably wouldn’t be as much hype around Before We Forgot How To Dream as there is. It’s by no means a terrible song, but more of a necessity in a world where you need your tracks to get airtime in order to shift albums.
Regardless, ‘Sea Creatures’ is the only track of its nature in an otherwise impressive debut album. ’24 Windowed House’ is a return to the guitar slides, and even when the album picks up pace in the uplifting ‘Garden’, the quality of Monds-Watson’s voice isn’t lost. ‘Shuvels’ is another beautiful track, whilst ‘Reckless Behaviour’ is perhaps the most upbeat song on the album. With lyrics such as “I won’t waste my youth this year/Don’t spend your night in tears” people will be very quick to point to the fact that Bridie Monds-Watson is just nineteen. But the fact is that shouldn’t matter.
Whether this album was written by a teenager or someone in their thirties it is still a capable album. Because SOAK can address issues in ways many, both young and old, can only dream of, such as those of divorce, there is a risk she will be patronised by press, as if the fact she is nineteen means she is incapable of being able to produce a good record. Before We Forgot How To Dream should be celebrated for what it is, not perfect, but a more than solid debut. At times it is beautiful; at times it is touching, and irrespective of age one thing is for certain, this is just the start for SOAK.
Before We Forgot How To Dream will be released Monday 1st June via Rough Trade Records.