Now Hear This

Reviews of new local releases

“Stay Home,” Soft Eyes
Eye Vybe Records
File Under: psychedelic, vibe-rock, lo-fi
Sounds like: Morgan Delt, Quilt, (early) White Fence, Allah-Las

There’s a moment during every sunny summer morning when we step out into the light of day and our eyes adjust. Great beams of light briefly disorient us before a calmer glow takes hold and the day’s bright palette appears for the first time. If you could somehow stretch out the moments of transition to that calm glow for 30 minutes, that’s where you’d find Soft Eyes’ radiant sound on their new tape, “Stay Home.” Written and performed entirely by Lukas Goudreault, his second bedroom-psych tape represents the bones of Soft Eyes’ more intense live sound. On stage, Rachel Neveu, Jesse DeFrancesco, and drummer Alex Decato transform these hushed, lo-fi tracks into a lush wall of ‘60s-influenced vibe-rock.

“Stay Home” follows up the band’s successful “Lazy Life” tape and, sonically speaking, it’s equally hard to pin down, drawing on a well of psychedelic inspirations. It’s not a far cry from Goodreault and Neveu’s work in Mmoss, at times finding similarly catchy refrains, but structure isn’t the focus here. Soft Eyes’ strength is in what’s not written down, meandering through a field of loose guitar leads, solos, and lo-fi psychedelic experimentation dutifully crafted on an old four-track tape recorder. While you’ll have to turn up the volume a bit to overcome the authentic tape hiss, this trip is totally worth it.

The opener, “Too Sick for the City,” sways and drones in an ambrosial soundscape before “(I Guess That’s All) I Can’t Remember” evokes a psyched-out Neil Young jam, with a pulsing bass line and layers of long harmonica notes and effects. The sprawling lead guitars and solos on the standout track “Backyard Tent” summon Jerry Garcia’s penchant for hooky melodies, soaked in reverb and a wah pedal. The title track, “Stay Home,” provides a taste of the Soft Eyes live experience when Neveu’s flute and Goudreault’s twisting guitar notes hover above a bass line for a full three minutes. While there’s a distance between the band’s live show and what’s recorded here, they complement each other perfectly.

Soft Eyes will perform on Sunday, June 21 at 8 p.m. at The Press Room, 77 Daniel St., Portsmouth.

“Bite Because You Like It,” Little My
Cat Dead, Details Later & Bloated Kat Records
File Under: punk, pop-punk, indie rock,
Sounds Like: Bratmobile, Discount, Chumped

Little My may be small in stature, but she’s a powerfully imposing character in the mid-century Swedish comic and book series, “Moomin.” Often portrayed as brash and rebellious, she’s fearless and, at her own choosing, very caring. It’s seldom that an artist’s moniker so aptly sets the tone for their music, but that’s the case for Little My the band, and their debut full-length, “Bite Because You Like It.” Given the iconic nature of their alt-heroine’s namesake, the expectations are high for the Newmarket trio that’s been playing together for less than a year.

What immediately sets these three-chord songs apart is Shayla Riggs’ natural aptitude for compelling songwriting and a commanding vocal delivery that rapidly shifts between disarming and explosive. Ultimately, it’s Riggs’ complex character that shines through unfettered, creating a larger-than-life presence that’s always the goal in recorded music, but rarely a reality. Rounded out by the talents of ex-Billy Raygun collaborators Nate Rubin and Zac Mayeux, the songs were brilliantly brought to life by producer Alex Bourne at his Crawl Space studio.

“Bite Because You Like It,” isn’t just a reference to the fictional Little My’s proclivity for doing things on her own terms. Here, it’s a statement of purpose punctuated by formidable writing and ideas. It’s no secret that the punk scene is still rife with misogyny. On “PSA” and “Cut Yr Locks,” Riggs’ makes it known, “Your macho boys club is not fucking punk!” It’s an important call for the inclusion of those who’ve been dismissed over the years by a punk movement that was supposed to be a refuge from mainstream American society. What separates Little My in a thankfully growing field is their success in expressing power and emotion without the classic trappings of drowning it all in shouts and screams. The use of great variety in volume, melody, and tone in Riggs’ vocals are most effective in inviting others to build a safe space in punk rock — not tear it down.

Throughout the album, Riggs’ expressions of vulnerability are honest and endearing. The strongest moments aren’t confined to raised voices and fast chord changes, but are found in self-awareness and confession. This is especially true on the last half of the album, showcasing unabashed and inspiring affections in gems like “Afflicted” and “Nate’s Song,” and intrepid insecurities in the indie-rock tinged highlights “Friends Forever,” “Little My Versus Self Doubt,” and “Get Over It.” They say the most talented among us are often full of doubt, but by creating one of the better local albums of year so far, Little My has already exceeded expectations.

 Little My performs July 12 at 6 p.m. at Needful Things, 299 Central Ave., Dover.