Since bursting out of Dublin with their 2021 debut album, Small Talk Soda Blonde have been colouring our world with some of the most contagious songs known to man. That record was not an easy beast to beat but Dream Big does an admirable job and is sure to propel the band on towards bigger things.
The first thing to note about this album is the production; it’s bold as brass, clean as a whistle, and it makes opening track ‘Midnight Show’ hard to ignore. With an infectious beat, it burrows itself into your cranium like a hungry worm, and once inside, it won’t be leaving anytime soon. Rich, lushly textured and warm, it cloaks the listener within its luxurious sound, so much so that it becomes part of your DNA, it insidiously ingratiates itself into your personality and is hard to shake off. It’s a nocturnal sound that’s akin to a stroll through a dusky metropolis as neon light is reflected in rain-soaked streets. Yet, Soda Blonde are a difficult band to pigeonhole and, as if to symbolise this, the following ‘Bad Machine’ constantly repositions the listener. Shifts in pitch and tempo demand a revolving re-evaluation of what you hear; staccato synths shock with electricity and create a sense of unease, before the vocals arrive like a soothing balm. It is a modus operandi that garners your full attention, with no space between the tracks, ‘Dream Big’ and ‘Space Baby’ make for a sonic shift that is quite jarring, and like a splash of water in the face, shakes us from our reverie. This makes Dream Big an album you engage with, rather than simply listen to.
I don’t know where Soda Blonde are digging these beats up from, but they are totally addictive and are, in modern terms, what would be described as “bangers”. These buoyant beats make for an interesting tension of opposites to the lyrics, which often tackle subjects of Nietzschean proportions. Case in point being ‘WWDWD’ which implores you to strut your stuff, yet the lyrics, questioning our very mortality, will stop you short. Much of Soda Blonde’s chutzpah comes from vocalist Faye O’Rourke, who draws favourable comparisons with Kate Bush. Using her voice like an instrument Faye hits some heady highs and loquacious lows, and on ‘Less Than Nothing’ holds the listener in that magical moment that exists somewhere between wake and sleep, and holds the listener in a warm, fuzzy codeine buzz. It’s a theme continued on closing track ‘Going Out’, and attentive listeners might have noticed how the songs take on a more thoughtful and reflective tone as Dream Big progresses, and by the time we reach this final cut, those amphetamine beats have been replaced by something far more prostate, bringing a real sense of closure.
Falling into the alt-pop category, I hope Soda Blonde’s brand of pop isn’t too alternative because this album shouldn’t be a niche thing; it deserves to be heard by the biggest audience possible, so now is the time to Dream Big…
- Dream Big is released via Overbite Records on 8th September 2023.
- Midnight Show
- Bad Machine
- Dream Big
- Space Baby
- An Accident
- My First Name
- Why Die For Danzig
- Less Than Nothing
- Going Out