One of the best examples of SOAK’s biographical songwriting abilities to date
Cailean Coffey
14:47 20th May 2022

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“I knew my twenties would make or break me but what the fuck is this” Derry songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson, better known as SOAK, sings towards the end of their latest, and arguably best, album If I never know you like this again. It perfectly encapsulates the thoughts and emotions showcased across the album’s entire 10 tracks, however it somehow still stands out for its raw honesty and authenticity. From an artist who, by their own admission, often buried their true thoughts and feelings in untangealable metaphors and soliloquies, this moment of candour carries much weight. For SOAK, this feels like a stepping stone to realising who they really are and more importantly who they want to become.

SOAK first burst onto the Irish indie circuit as an 18 year-old with the 2015 release of their touching debut single ‘Sea Creatures’, their fragile delicate vocals reflected the lyric’s love-lorn verses, and uncertainty of how to perceive this new adult world they were now expected to be an active member of. Later that year, they released their debut album Before We Forgot How To Dream, which saw them acclaimed on both sides of the Irish sea, scooping up a Mercury prize nomination and taking them to stages across the world. The album was a very acoustic-driven album, with minimal instrumentation far from SOAK’s on guitar. The follow-up, Grim Town, was released in 2019 and it was already clear that SOAK was looking to expand their repertoire and sonics.

It comes as no surprise then, that If I never know you like this again does just that, cranking up the reverb and letting loose on riff-heavy guitar lines and pedal-pushing distortion. The album’s opening track ‘purgatory’ kickstarts the regeneration from the off. That sense of breaking new ground and experimentation continues throughout the record, with songs such as ‘guts’ and ‘red-eye’ continuing to drive a stake through pre-conditioned expectations of SOAKs' songwriting or abilities. 

The album was written in 2020, in a year which while originally earmarked as a time to write a new album, wasn’t intended to be written alone in SOAK’s childhood bedroom; following their return at the on-set of the pandemic from a four-year hiatus from Derry. Inspired by indie-rock favourites such as Broken Social Scene, Pavement and the Radiohead classic The Bends, the album has been described by SOAK as a way in which to remember moments, people and times in their life that they wish to never forget. Touching on themes of mental health, gender identity, love and missed friends, it’s also one of SOAK’s most intimate recordings to date.

Whether it’s ‘baby, you’re full of shit’ decrying a person’s falsehoods, or ‘guts’ revelling in someone’s love; this is an album that feels lived it, feels whole, and it’s one of the best examples of SOAK’s biographical songwriting abilities to date (with bonus points for pop culture records scattered across the tracklist). 

At times it slows perhaps that little too much, or the textures within each track don’t quite mesh, but regardless, SOAK has managed to capture the trials and tribulations of young life, and distilled the essence of life in their twenties to a tee. It doesn’t sound so bad to me.

If I never know you like this again is out now.

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Photo: Press