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Published on June 6th, 2019 | by voxx

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SOAK – Grim Town

The Derry singer-songwriter negotiates late-teens breakdown with a masterful second…

Bridie Monds-Watson titled her second record Grim Town after a fictional location that was meant to reflect the bleak mental landscape she found herself in during its creation. But the 22-year-old, whose SOAK handle is a phonetic amalgamation of “soul” and “folk”, very nearly named it after one of its best songs, ‘Life Trainee’. A stirring anthem towards the end of the album, its message holds particular resonance for the singer-songwriter from Derry, Northern Ireland. Writing these tracks, Monds-Watson embarked on an exploration of self that was prompted by a bout of depression. By the time she got ‘Life Trainee’ down, she’d found the answer: that there is no answer. Life, she realised, is always in a state of flux.

Grim Town might have been written during a period of uncertainty but Monds-Watson’s jubilant melodies lift these songs out of the gloom. Musically, it broadens the folk-pop sound of her 2015 debut Before We Forgot How to Dream, taking in yearning indie-rock (‘Get Set Go Kid’), minor-chord soul (‘Everybody Loves You’), upbeat ’80s pop (‘Knock Me Off My Feet’) and stark piano balladry (‘Crying Your Eyes Out’). The hooky ‘Déjà Vu’, which combines Fleetwood Mac harmonies and an urgent groove, sounds ripe for a dancefloor makeover.

It’s an album that sounds assured even in its most fragile moments, capturing a potent songwriter as she tracks the path from troubled teenage years into adulthood. By its end, Bridie Monds-Watson has realised you’re always a life trainee. On this excellent record, she maps a route forward.

- By Jake White


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