First she wanted to kill your girlfriend. Then she wanted to kill herself (well, she said she died on MySpace). In the intervening years she wrote and scrapped a double album, performed as an actress and now some four years on from her hit, “I’ll Kill Her,” SoKo has completed her debut album, I Thought I Was An Alien. It is her baby, a labour of love with 15 tracks that have inherited aspects of her reflective, eccentric and plain weird nature.
SoKo’s musical journey started with little more than an acoustic guitar, her voice and a laptop fitted with Garageband. On record, it seems that little has changed as she is still writing folk songs with a lo-fi feel, meaning that musically they could slot in easily alongside Jose Gonzalez’s work, both solo or with Junip. Lyrically however, things are a tad more cheeky, enigmatic and strange, so they really could have come from the books of Regina Spektor or Darren Hanlon, among others.
From an early point in I Thought I Was An Alien, SoKo establishes that the listener will learn lots about her through this set of music. Consider: “You will discover me through my songs/Learn heartbreaks and fears and depressions/Hear all the cracks and lack of talent/And I hope you won’t hate me by then.”
On opener, “Just Want To Make It New With You” we get to hear a group of aliens lurking and murmuring in the background with just an unfamiliar drumbeat for company. It all sounds rather catchy and at first it’s rather sweet to hear her partially purr and whisper the lyrics. On the following title track and single, SoKo sounds as if she has swapped friends and is instead playing with some woodland creatures. It’s a softness that is replicated in the delicate strings on “We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow”.
The first half of this album contains a number of more melancholy tracks that live up to the chanteuse’s description of her work as being like: “Crying on my guitar”. Thankfully, things pick up on “First Love Never Die” which could be re-imagined as a postcard from a secluded, sunny island getaway while “How Are You” is so light and feathery it verges on the near-angelic with a reverence and repetitiveness that is gorgeous and introspective.
“Don’t You Touch Me” begins with something that could have been by Angus and Julia Stone before veering off-course to a place that is typically inhabited by the likes of Regina Spektor and Sia. It’s fun and it’s a vibe that is replicated on “You Have A Power On Me”. The latter is so offbeat, carefree and essentially a silly slice of French chic.
I Thought I Was An Alien is a rather bittersweet listening experience. On the one hand there are some fragile and subtle dynamics at play where existential crises are dealt with via dreamy pop and hushed revelations of personal truths and other secrets. But the problem is that it can also tend to be drowned in its feelings of grief and all-round sadness. At best it is fragile, cool and cheeky and at worst it is twee, tedious and long. Unfortunately, when the latter elements are added to an at-times repetitive nature, it may leave you wishing that SoKo would ditch the sepia-tinged ballads and upgrade to full Technicolor, anything to get away from the whitewash of blue feelings.
Originally published on 26 March 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/32050/SoKo–I-Thought-I-Was-An-Alien
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