A culmination of their thoughts on and experiences of sexism, misogyny and objectification, twin sisters Phoenix and Mercedes Arn Horn aka Softcult have crafted a bittersweet collection of lush, grunge-infused songs on their debut EP, Year Of The Rat. Pushing through pain and reflecting on their hard earned emotional resilience, the Canadian duo have written an ultra-cool aural manifesto of resistance designed to help relieve the pressures that come with existing in a patriarchal world.
Informed by their love of 90s guitar bands like Bikini Kill and My Bloody Valentine, as well as the bubble-gum grunge of Beabadoobee and Soccer Mommy, Softcult blend atmospheric guitars, energetic percussion and hazy vocals to create their softly antagonistic sounds. Working from their home studio for most of 2020, Phoenix and Mercedes were able to take stock of what they really wanted to achieve under their new moniker, and Year Of The Rat is a polished, mature offering that highlights the duo’s instincts for creating heady, alternative soundscapes that soothe the sting of a painful past.
“It might seem like we’re just super angry but it comes from a place of wanting to make positive change, which always starts with a conversation,” explains guitarist & vocalist Mercedes. This anger and empathy manifests itself in different ways throughout the EP, which kicks off with the gritty, melodic ‘Another Bish’. The duo find catharsis amidst their swirling riffs and frantic beats, arriving at the humbling realisation that even though you can’t always change someone else’s perception of you, you can refuse to be “tamed” by their reductive views.
The melancholic ‘Gloomy Girl’ provides listeners with a glimpse behind the veil of depression. It’s a tentative, hazy musing on the ominous feeling that you’re “wasting away” whilst going through a period of poor mental health. ‘Take It Off’ aches with a subdued anger that’s directed at catcallers, but the track also doubles up as a care-free dismissal of ridiculous trophy wife standards. The pair continue to shrug off the emotional labour that’s routinely pushed onto women’s shoulder on the shimmering, restless ‘Young Forever’, before closing the EP with the cutting, yet tender sounds of ‘Bird Song’.
Fuelled by their desire to instigate change in their own circles and further afield, the Softcult grrrls have fused observational lyrics, smooth vocals and atmospheric riffs together on Year Of The Rat to punctuate their personal statement against injustice, and to provide their listeners with a brooding, polished, yet unexpectedly light listen.