By Connor Hayes | firstname.lastname@example.org
When it comes to making music, New York City has long been considered the de facto DIY capital: an environment that flourishes on, and largely built by, artists seeking innovation through creativity.
It is in this world that Luke Rathborne found himself, after he moved from the quiet, picturesque forests of northern Maine, to the bustling Big Apple. It’s also where, at the age of 18, Rathborne started writing “Soft.”
The title track, “Soft”, kickstarts the album and immediately entices the audience to enter into the seedy soundscapes of fuzzy guitar and slinking bass. As Rathborne croons (at times sounding like a late 70s glam rocker) the mantra, “I get soft,” arena rock meshes perfectly with psychedelic undertones.
“What More” follows up, which resembles a b-side from Cheap Trick’s back catalogue: angsty, kinetic 80s style pop-rock. Even the lyrical content is inherently passive aggressive, as Rathborne bemoans: “What more can the devil want from me? I told you once before, but I’m not that into it”. The next number, “I’m So Tired” exhibits a very emotionally exasperated Luke, “I’m so tired, she won’t let me be,” in the aftermath of a lover’s squabble.
The pace kicks up again with “Eno”, a peppy yet somewhat plastic track. However, this is the realm in which Rathborne excels: combining completely juxtaposed concepts, such as making a song about internal conflict sound very giddy, in a beautiful and cerebral manner. This is exemplified best on the following track, “Low!” which is a classic punk tune about the awkward stage in a relationship (or after, rather), where passion has dissipated. Sonically, it is a very catchy and memorable track, but the lyrics used have very negative connotations, forming a wonderful contrast.
The mid-point of the album is “Little Moment”, a sweet, sentimental reprieve from the previous hard-hitting/punk themed tracks. Rathborne serenades the listener, with the help of spritely backup vocals. “Little Moment” not only acts to alter the pace of the album, but is a good prelude to the more cerebral tracks on the album, namely “Wanna Be You” and “So Long NYC.”
If “Little Moment” is simplistically beautiful, then “Last Forgiven” is intricately optimistic. It features complex synth layering and a mini keyboard solo midway through the song. “Wanna Be You” is a study on the effects of fame, and how we as individuals perceive those we deem celebrities: “Saw you in the magazine, I wanna be you. Don’t care about the way it seems, I wanna be you.”
“Deal” is an oddly placed track, but still has quality. “Why” is a return to the first half the album: it features an upbeat punk rhythm, and involves themes of loyalty and commitment. The album finale, “So Long NYC”, is a neat synthesis of the first and last halves of the album: fast-tempoed, yet intelligent. It’s a perfect culmination to an album that is unique in that it doesn’t separate sincerity and joyous abandon.
Listen to Rathborne’s Last Forgiven here!