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SOAK.


The nom de plume for Northern Ireland’s most promising singer-songwriter/guitarist Bridie Monds-Watson, SOAK is as much dream-pop than it is indie folk-rock. Born 2nd May 1996 in Belfast, but raised in Derry, teenage tomboy Bridie is the female equivalent to SIGUR ROS’s Jonsi, with her distinctive, breathy, larynx-squeezing dulcet vox. FOALS, The KOOKS and the 1975 were all bands she’d listened to while growing up (among other older artists), a growing up that led her to “coming out” to her parents when only a freckle-faced 13 year-old.
From leaving a “shitty band” (as she described) in 2011 to find inner strength as a solo artist, Bridie elasticated her vernacular vocal range and took the name of SOAK. (“kaos” in reverse), performing locally and, in turn, nationwide; driven to shows by her supportive mother.
Her precocious talent eager to gain a foothold somewhere in the market, 2012 saw a couple of 3-track EPs (`Trains’ and `Sea Creature’) reach a small audience. Avoiding the gruesome route of becoming the next marketing tool for X Factor, her patience was rewarded when Scottish indie band CHVRCHES invited her to release her first “official” EP (`Blud’) for their Goodbye imprint.
The all-knowing Rough Trade Records had watched her progress from afar, and it was their team that tempted the lass into their ever-expanding roster. Buoyed by a tip for the top from the BBC, and floating from a wave of rave reviews for singles `B a noBody’ (penned with Iain Archer) and `Sea Creatures’ (again), the much-anticipated BEFORE WE FORGOT HOW TO DREAM (2015) {*7} gate-crashed the Top 40. Delicate, intimate and obviously childlike, Bridie never shirked from wearing her heart on her sleeve, although at times her echo-y melodramas could grate without the intermediate oomph needed to sustain a full set. Augmented/arranged by multi-instrumentalist and producer Tommy McLaughlin, her most recent of singles were star tracks here, while `Wait’, `Hailstones Don’t Hurt’ and the 7-minute bookender `Oh Brother’ added atmosphere and weight to her cathartic repertoire.
That sticky sophomore-set-syndrome was never more apparent when singer-songwriter SOAK’s soulful-folk follow-up, GRIM TOWN (2019) {*7}, didn’t quite get off the mark commercially; it only managed a sorrowful No.66 in the Irish charts. A few years back she’d once again showed promise in her double-header download re-treads of BONNIE RAITT’s `I Can’t Make You Love Me’ and LED ZEPPELIN’s `Immigrant Song’. However the flighty pop charm of `Knock Me Off My Feet’ or the melancholy `Valentine Shmalentine’, didn’t play well for an audience already spellbound by the ADELEs and the GRANDEs of the pop music biz. Co-producer Tommy McLaughlin was again on hand to provide some understated tunes, namely `Get Set Go Kid’, `Maybe’, `Crying Your Eyes Out’ and `Life Trainee’, whilst the partnership of Emily Philips & Ant Whiting contributed the set’s best track, `Everybody Loves You’.
© MC Strong/MCS Jun2015-Jun2019

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