RUST Magazine recently interviewed James Raftery, half of the creative core behind Rat Wakes Red, along with Jeral Benjamin, who described his work as making “music so beautiful it hurts” and Used Melodies, the debut album from Soft News is just that. Erik Laroi – the man behind Soft News – takes a focused approach to defining his own particular musical space with intense, stripped-down and beautifully re-arranged songs from days past. Used Melodies is much more than a cover album, it’s truly new music in it’s own radiant way. What Soft News does so exceptionally is to isolate particular elements from a song, then re-embellish something new, built from elements of the old structure.
All this is done with gorgeous vocals and immaculate production. The arrangements are so unique and complex that most people would not recognize any of the original songs except for having the same vocals. And the tone of songs is completely different from the original. Billy Idol’s top-40 hit Dancing With Myself here is a lonely ballad, and this is done for songs such as Love Touch by Rod Stewart, Separate Ways by Journey, Holocaust by Big Star and Red Headed Woman by Bruce Springsteen.
Used Melodies is perplexing in it’s pleasing, and that’s what really makes it so unique and special. It’s like a multi-layered puzzle with no answer. Of course it’s the journey, not the destination in music, and Used Melodies is like a labyrinth of memories suspended in golden twilight. You’re forever losing and reconnecting with visions in a whole other time and space. Soft News traps you in it’s dream, and you cannot wake up. After a while, you stop trying to emerge from the dream and give in to it, letting it take you to places both dark and light.
What’s even more interesting about his treatment is that there’s been a big movement in the post-rock space, especially in Europe where really, really great music is being made by slowing the music down and exposing unexpected things within it. It’s like people have been in such a hurry and so socially accelerated that we’re all craving the richness that comes with patience. Maybe that’s why this album, at this moment, is extra significant. It’s got a trans-generational appeal that speaks across time, and will continue to do so on it’s individual merits for a very long time to come.
Whether you know the original songs or not, Used Melodies stands as a unique, personal, intimate album by a very special performer, supported by people like Charles Newman and Ray Ketchem and artists Lorraine Lelis, Margaret White, Perry Serpa and Jean Cook. Deep and rewarding, Used Melodies is itself a world without end.