A collection of songs entitled Don’t Ever Listen. If I didn’t know any better, I’d guess this was the title of the latest release from some hipster indie band. The name almost seems like some quasi-ironic comment about the current state of the music industry, which nobody but the band members would understand. As it turns out, that couldn’t be any further from the truth. This is the latest release from Iceland’s leading lady in indie folk-pop, Sóley. Considering Iceland’s vibrant and eclectic music scene, Sóley has done well to establish her own sound, setting herself apart from contemporary acts such as Ásgeir and Of Monsters and Men. Having previously released two remarkable studio albums, she returns with this – her third EP. Stylistically, it marks a considerable departure from her last work, the impressive sophomore effort Ask The Deep. This collection of demo tracks is, unsurprisingly, far more stripped back and features much sparser production values, and lacks the electronic lull which haunted her previous studio output.
The EP kicks off with N. Y. Hotel. The first cover song Sóley has released, the track’s simplistic guitar lines and electronic percussion establish the empty, lonely sound maintained throughout the EP. However, Sóley doesn’t quite manage to make the track her own, and it simply comes off as a slowed-down demo version of The Knife’s otherworldly original. Lacking the emotional and instrumental build-up of the original track, Sóley undermines herself with unavailing and ultimately repetitive melodies. Fortunately, the reverb-heavy delivery and underproduction of the next track on the EP, While I Sleep (Scary Adventures), works in the singer’s favour, as she gracefully paints a picture of the murky land between dream and reality. Similarly, Wedding manages to retain the minimal production and haunting atmosphere whilst having a more fleshed-out structure, and really doesn’t feel like a demo track at all.
Title track Don’t Ever Listen (featuring Sóley’s cat) plunges the listener to the depths of mental isolation, as the singer ponders, “How is it to sit in the dark? / Will you ever see the light?” It’s the sonic equivalent of sitting in a dimly lit room at 1:00AM with rain pouring down the window. Final track, I Will Find You, is in Sóley’s words “a pure love song”. It trades fragile guitar picking for mournful, melancholic piano and ethereal vocals, and rounds off the EP well. The decision of any artist to strip back production and instrumentation is always one full of risk, and unfortunately, it doesn’t always pay off here. Whilst some tracks benefit from the use of space and minimal textures, this EP ultimately lacks the mesmerising atmospheres provided by Sóley on her previous works, and it seems there’s a reason these tracks almost went unreleased in their current state. Nonetheless, this EP certainly deserves your time and attention. Ignore the title – give it a listen now