Soft Hair AKA a collaborative effort between Conan Mockasin and Sam Dust, is an album of off-kilter, surreal funk-pop. The two collaborator’s song writing voices feel equally represented throughout their debut album, combining for a maximum level of slippery weirdness that draws the listener inside their world, which evokes a casual decadence as well as a sort of processed uncanniness. Sincerity isn’t high on the list of priorities here, but there is an undeniable charm to the way the pair’s voices weave together to create a tapestry of soft, hooky detachment.
Soft Hair’s opening track “Relaxed Lizard” is both immediately appealing and a standout on the album. It also includes a refrain that can be seen as a theme for the record; as the song fades out on its funky rhythms and opaque synths Mockasin opines “Oh, to be the real thing”. The album does seem like it has a contentious relationship with reality. The relentless mid-tempo of the pacing as well as the commitment to having no organic or untreated elements in the production make Soft Hair a dreamy record, but devoid of the specifically romantic connotations of the word.
Instead, the presiding atmosphere is a bit like being inside of a Mario Bros. video game. There is a beauty to this world, but it lies in the plushy, plastic perfection of just tuning out and letting it all go by. It feels pleasant and stoned, and as it passes it is hard not to notice how intricately songs like “Lying Has to Stop” are arranged. Soft Hair definitely gets credit for its ornate and fluid basslines, which are the backbone its psychedelic funkiness. And the detached, very slightly deranged pop sensibility certainly draws comparison to Ariel Pink, as well as the warbling guitar lines of Mac Demarco.
But the album is very brief at only 8 songs, with two of them being rather inconsequential instrumental contributions. Some of the songs, like “Life Without Medicine” meander curiously through their existence, with a passable chorus hook and some noodly guitar. It’s catchy enough, but even by the end of this very brief album it’s starting to feel like overkill, or maybe just a sugar-induced headache.
Soft Hair exudes the kind of breezy emotions that one suspects were apparent in the rooms it was recorded in; a fraternal camaraderie that both shapes the album and maligns it. While there are some very listenable moments on the record, it doesn’t really convey a sense of any gravity, nor does it feel like either of these artist’s most realized work.
review by Dan Geddes