San Diego may sometimes get overlooked by the East Coast as hub of great music. Los Angeles is full of record labels, stores and venues well-known across the country, but SD? One might be hard-pressed to name a club or native band right off the bat. Not to worry. Velvet Blue Music, the San Diego-based label who has been cranking out great tunes as an institution for the past twenty years has recently debuted another name you need to know – Soft Lions.
The beach-faring trio are on the scene with XOXO, the follow-up EP to their previous release Spellbreaker (on orange vinyl!), that highlights all that we love in pop songs. Opening with ‘Freeway’, a boardwalk single invoking the coastal town reel, singer and guitarist Megan Liscomb airs her grievances as an observer of a relationship gone south, swooning “Are you sorry yet?” in the breakers. Don’t fret, listeners. Let her remind you that nothing beats a written letter as a peace offering, with an upbeat charm to help the somber message go down.
Their video suggests otherwise, and why not? The lyrics are brooding enough and the folks want to enjoy a day on the town shooting Polaroids in the sun. Such is life in Southern California.
Every album needs that requisite sobering number to balance the innocent strums and kicks of the upbeat pop, lest a record be top-heavy and chase you away after three hits. Those friendly riffs come at a price! This is the fulcrum necessary of every great album. ‘Digital Girls’ addresses the growing – let’s face it – full-grown issue of swiping right on pretty faces and taking imagination over the real flesh and blood manifestations of love and affection. Everyone on deck, in full force to deliver lines like “you’ve liked me in pictures/you’ve held me at arms length/I’m afraid of the space between my real face and the flash”, emptying full lungs and exercising instrumental dexterity, balanced on the infinite strength of a sobering thorn in the sides of digital dweebs.
In the great traditions of punk, these folks waste no riffs. They pull no punches when subtle strums meet ominous synth notes as odes to The Screamers and Blondie solidify their name in your memory. Accept these hugs and kisses! They like you, too.
XOXO is out now on Velvet Blue Music. Check it out and bug them on Facebook to get on another tour.