Love Lives in the Body by Soft Blue Shimmer/Live Show Review
By Kylie Arbini | Top Tracks: Prism of Feeling, Cloudless, and 9090
From their first EP Nothing Happens Here to their debut full-length record Heaven Inches Away, Soft Blue Shimmer has spent their actively blossoming career crafting and perfectly packaging hazy sonic landscapes for listeners to slowly unravel. However, never has this transcendent experience been more captivating than on their most recent release Love Lives in the Body.
Not unlike their shoegaze predecessors, Meredith Ramond, Charlie Crowley, and Kenzo Cardenas had appeared to prioritize their instrumental prowess rather than lyrical complexity on their first two projects, opting instead to transcribe their thoughts and feelings through pedaled effects and mysterious mixes. Yet, Love Lives in the Body abandons the apprehensive approach to their vocal delivery and allows for Meredith to croon directly into your headphones, leaving no room for misinterpretation. The record appropriately begins with “First Breath Back”, quite literally breathing new life into the band and ushering in a new era of ambient abyss with a sigh and a distorted riff. The tone set by the intro track– as well as the few that follow– is unarguably bleak and reminiscent, but suggests a “return to the warm” which harkens back to the popular track “Hold You in the Warm” from their debut album. The warmth we are promised does not fully arrive until the subdued riffs on “Cloudless”. Even with heart-wrenching lyrics such as “But the void is still saved for you / Even if our eyes never quite meet again” and “I can’t be the way you want me to”, the combination of Crowley’s airy strumming and Cardenas soft but stead-fast drumming provides a feeling a relief.
For the remainder of the album, listeners are subjected to this calculated concoction of lonely lyricism accented by light-whimsical instrumentation. This theme of nostalgic remembrance does not begin and end with the lyrical content, however, as the album artwork also evokes the feeling of loss in conjunction with the aches of desire. In it, two individuals are pictured clearly, one seated and preoccupied, the other standing and searching– for something or someone– as blurred bodies travel past them. The visual implies the loss of time (for better or for worse) as well as the craving to relive what’s already happened, something Soft Blue Shimmer also carries into their live performances.
Last week, Soft Blue Shimmer played The Runaway in DC– a small, intimate venue that serves partly as a bar, partly as a hot-spot for music trivia nights, and most importantly as a safe haven for smaller (and dare I say underappreciated) bands. Several local bands warmed the crowd up, reminding everyone every so often that Soft Blue Shimmer was only a few more tracks away. As the forgotten clock wound down to an hour until midnight the small room became filled with more excitement and warmth than I’ve ever felt at any larger venue. As soon as they took the stage it became evident that witnessing Love Lives in the Body live is a quintessential component in the listening experience and overall understanding of this record. As I swayed, headbanged, and jumped with the audience I became aware that I was living in a moment I would soon come to miss. It is this bittersweet self-awareness that makes Soft Blue Shimmer so outstanding and what makes nostalgia neverending.