The Soft Moon – Zeros
Slightly more pop than his first release but still dark enough to scare off the uninitiated, the second album from The Soft Moon improves upon Luis Vasquez’s one-man goth factory sound with a bit more muscle and increased emphasis on hooks and (somewhat) intelligible vocals. Vasquez’s sound — one part Dario Argento soundtrack, one part post-punk mastery — remains relentlessly bleak throughout Zeros, creating a sort of shut-in listening experience during which no light enters or escapes. The result isn’t alienating though; rather, Vasquez carefully builds the album up and keeps it chugging smoothly, from an almost M83-like synth-epic opening, to the short ‘n’ creepy “Machines,” to the title track, the first song we get of several that fulfills the promise of his earlier work. The title track and “Insides,” which immediately follows, sees Vasquez allow his voice to step out of the shadows a bit as he gives an impassioned scream in the title track’s buzzing climax, and on single “Insides,” he sings a discernable yet ghostly melody over a Pornography-era Cure backdrop of a looping guitar riff and bassline and mechanical beats. That breathy whisper that opens the song grabs you, but Vasquez seems to know he can’t offer only atmosphere forever, and his singing, emotional and buried, is a highlight across Zeros when it pops up. On “Dire Life,” which revs its synths before kicking off with a yelp, Vasquez drives listeners down a grim autobahn. Even better is “Want,” in which Vasquez cries “I want it…you have it” over clattering, afrobeat-esque drumwork that sounds like nothing else he’s done. It’s touches like this that keeps Zeros from being a one-note album, and though he doesn’t completely step out from the shadow of his influences, on Zeros Vasquez comes dangerously close, while scratching a very specific itch for immaculately constructed goth pop.