After a few restless/sleepless nights, some perceived anxiety about the now-dominant and highly contagious Delta variant, the subsequent postponement of a Foo Fighters July 17th Forum show due to Covid, and a Loki finale that fractured the Sacred Timeline into a universe that too closely mirrors our own, I’ve decided to slow the roll and just pick a track that literally sums up my state of mind. No need for interpretation here. It just comes right out and says it.
I’m talking about Portland based post-punk outfit Soft Kill’s 2018 single “Trying Not to Die.” Obviously, this strangely soothing and highly melodic downer of a pop tune dressed up in a coldwave rumble wasn’t written with today’s circumstances in mind. Unless, of course, frontman Tobias Sinclair could see the future, which may or may not be the case.
In actuality, I’ve read that “Trying Not to Die,” as well as most of its accompanying album “Savior,” was written at a time of near personal tragedy for Sinclair. I won’t get into that here. No need to dredge up ghosts of the past. But if interested, there’s plenty of interviews online that address the matter.
“Trying Not to Die” reminds me specifically of a style I can’t quite put my finger on. There’s a definite early-to-mid-’80s alternative vibe going on, where cavernous vocals, searing guitars and dominant basslines aimed for the shadows. Not so much depressing, as might easily be construed, but a melancholy nonetheless. There’s also a hint of pop flavor seeping through, catchy, melodic, and dare I say, slightly uplifting.
I can easily see how Soft Kill could get pegged as strictly darkwave or coldwave or even goth. Post-punk seems a bit too much of a generalization. But it’s definitely there as well. At one point, the band described themselves as “sad rock” via Facebook. So maybe this one’s a bit of all of the above.
Furthering this vein, Soft Kill released their sixth album “Dead Kids R.I.P. City” last year, which if you like “Trying Not to Die,” will sit quite well in your listening repertoire. It’s a logical evolution, melodic, moody, slightly morose, yet flavored by a measured modicum of pop mentality.
Contemporary touchstones for Soft Kill might be The Chameleons, Cold Showers, Drab Majesty, Cold Cave, or anyone billed on next year’s Cruel World festival – which, incidentally, the trio will also be performing at.
Here’s Soft Kill’s prescient summation of my current state of mind, “Trying Not to Die.” Enjoy!
“Trying Not to Die” from the 2018 album “Savior.”