Secret Meeting score: 78
by Philip Moss
Bridie Monds-Watson’s debut under the SOAK moniker, 2015’s Before We Forgot How To Dream, saw the then 19 year old Northern Irish singer/songwriter amass a plethora of critical acclaim. On its follow up, Grim Town, the acoustic based blueprint has been largely torn up, and replaced by something, in the main, altogether more beautifully pop orientated.
The metaphorical bildungsroman begins with “all aboard”, as a train announcer (played by Bridie’s grandfather), welcomes the listener on a journey to Grim Town. But ironically, despite touching upon themes of depression, the melodies on the opener proper – Get Set Go Kid – are anything but grim, as the 22 year old showcases her new found, crossover sound. Over a sparse and simple synth part, Everybody Loves You further demonstrates her knack for producing an effortless chorus, and falls somewhere between Lorde and La Roux. But the most blatant examples of unabashed pop are Knock Me Off My Feet – with its Frankie Cosmos-esque keyboard line and breezy vocal melodies – Maybe where the sharp guitars recall The Cult’s iconic She Sells Sanctuary.
However, the two undisputed highlights actually see the overarching pop feel stripped back. Firstly, Fall Asleep / Backseat sees Monds-Watson temporarily backed only by her acoustic guitar as she depicts the panic attacks caused by her parents’ divorce. The result is a stunningly melancholic track that would be more than at home on Snail Mail’s Lush LP. While Valentine Shmalentine follows a similar aesthetic – this time depicting a modern tale of love woes compounded by social media.
Grim Town certainly is an assured sophomore record, and one that documents Bridie Monds-Watson’s growing skill as a writer – because while, at times, it’s a difficult listen in terms of the struggles the young songwriter has been through, it is a record that exudes energy and is packed with tunes that you just can’t help but sing along to!