Te-Whanganui-a-Tara trio Soft Plastics (Sophie Scott-Maunder, Laura Robinson, and Jonathan Shirley) have been performing together since late 2019.
Their debut album, ‘Saturn Return’ comes after a number of well-received singles in the student radio charts, and showcases the band’s developing songwriting skills.
There is a duality to ‘Saturn Return’ between the controlled quieter, minimal shoegaze, and wilder, louder, fuller indie pop.
Opening track My World/Your Girl has been re-recorded from its first appearance in 2020, drenched in reverb and atmosphere and reimagined as a shoegaze anthem, and Scott-Maunder’s new vocals reveal a torch song that recalls the British band Broadcast.
There’s more than restrained torch-pop songs here, though, as Soft Plastics are equally adept at creating bangers – Anything I Wanted, and Disembody turn up the guitars and distortion while Darcie thrashes away beautifully.
The title track shows their knack for layering sound, building from a drum riff and layering guitars, synths and vocals on top of a hypnotic rhythm.
The title ‘Saturn Return’ is an interesting astrological signifier, the idea that Saturn returns to your astrological sign in the same position between 27 and 29 years after your birth. The lyrics delve into the existential crisis of the late twenties, examining the relationships and connections that happen during that time. The songs follow a loose arc, and the lyrics mix melancholy and regret with a frequent wry sting in the tail.
The music on ‘Saturn Return’ reflects this, the sounds either weaving around the Scott-Maunder’s gorgeous vocals, or underpinning the melodies with beautiful, and occasionally abrasive, instrumental performances and arrangements.
‘Saturn Return’ is a very impressive debut album and builds on the initial promise heard in the band’s early singles. Highly recommended.