Immerse Yourself In SOAK's Tender, Unsettled Debut Record The first words Bridie Monds-Watson sings on her debut album double as a tidy thesis statement: "A teenage heart is an unguided dart." The Irish singer-songwriter records under the name SOAK.
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Immerse Yourself In SOAK's Tender, Unsettled Debut Record

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Immerse Yourself In SOAK's Tender, Unsettled Debut Record

Immerse Yourself In SOAK's Tender, Unsettled Debut Record

Immerse Yourself In SOAK's Tender, Unsettled Debut Record

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The first words Bridie Monds-Watson sings on her debut album double as a tidy thesis statement: "A teenage heart is an unguided dart." The Irish singer-songwriter records under the name SOAK.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's hear some new music now with our guides Stephen Thompson and Bob Boilen of NPR Music.

BOB BOILEN, BYLINE: Last fall, I got this song by an 18-year-old singer from Derry, Ireland. Her name's Bridie Monds-Watson. She goes by the name of SOAK. And the first line in the song "B A Nobody" starts off a teenage heart is an unguided dart. And I just thought that was a killer, and I love the song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "B A NOBODY")

SOAK: (Singing) A teenage heart is an unguarded dart. We're trying hard to make something of what we are.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: So that song "B A NoBody" is on SOAK's new, full-length debut album. It's called "Before We Forgot How To Dream." And that song, like a lot of songs on the record, is about shyness and uncertainty and these kind of inward-facing pursuits. You know, when you're very young, you're constantly coming to terms with who you are. And this record is very much about that.

BOILEN: And she's splits her time between skateboarding and making music. She's been making music since she was 13. She's got two EP's. And then we went, Stephen - we went and saw her, of course, at South by Southwest, the music festival this past March.

THOMPSON: Yeah. And seeing her standing on stage, you see somebody who's clearly spent a lot of time kind of huddled over a guitar in a bedroom and is learning to be more out in the world.

BOILEN: Yeah, very unassuming presence, but really powerful words. We'll play - this was a first single from this new record that's coming out from SOAK. This song's called "Sea Creatures."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEA CREATURES")

SOAK: (Singing) The stars and moon remind me of you. I don't know what to say. It might make you worse. I don't understand what her problem is. I think she's just a fish.

BOILEN: The songs are beautiful, but as an album, it holds together. There are great atmospherics that take you from song to song, little washes of ocean, as in "Sea Creatures" - really nicely put together, especially for a debut record.

THOMPSON: Yeah, it's a beautiful-sounding record, but it's also something. I like it when - when a new artist comes out and has a philosophy and has a point of view. That song "Sea Creatures" is great. It's, you know, about alienation, and it sounds innocent, but also weary. There's another song on the record called "Blud," that's about her parents' divorce and coming to terms with that.

BOILEN: And hearing her parents argue in the house, right?

THOMPSON: Yeah. And it's a gorgeous song, but it fits into the larger themes of the record. Let's actually here a little bit of "Blud."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLUD")

SOAK: (Singing) You've got a problem. I cannot fix it. Hear the anger through the ceiling. I wish I missed it.

BOILEN: The mood on this record is quite tender and some of the songs are slow, but that's not true of every song on SOAK's debut record.

THOMPSON: Yeah, there's a song called "Garden" that builds up a lot more energy. And I love the way that even when this album has more energy, it still feels unsettled. She's still coming to terms with who she is as a person and that's really reflected in the sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GARDEN")

SOAK: (Singing) I'd take you away, freeway, if I could.

MONTAGNE: That's Stephen Thompson of the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast and Bob Boilen of All Songs Considered. They were talking about the artist SOAK.

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Review: SOAK, 'Before We Forgot How To Dream'

Before We Forgot How To Dream Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

The first words Bridie Monds-Watson sings on her debut album double as a tidy thesis statement: "A teenage heart is an unguided dart." The Irish singer-songwriter, who records under the name SOAK, made Before We Forgot How To Dream while she was still 18 — some of these songs date back to her early teens — so she knows whereof she speaks.

This is, to state the obvious, a coming-of-age album, as Monds-Watson chronicles youthful alienation ("Sea Creatures"), anxiety and shyness ("B a nobody"), and the anguish of her parents' divorce ("Blud") alongside more generalized ruminations on feeling ill-at-ease and at a crossroads. She sings and writes as if she's spent much of her life living inside her own head, and yet there's also an ambitious, idiosyncratic quality to Before We Forgot How To Dream that allows it to feel more sweeping in scope. At times, SOAK's origins feel more Icelandic than Irish, as Monds-Watson achieves Bjork-like otherworldliness even as her subject matter fixes on the anguish of the everyday.

SOAK's debut rarely amplifies Monds-Watson's sound beyond lugubrious seething, and even when it picks up the pace, as in "Garden," the feeling throughout is sort of calmly unsettled — or, in the case of "Shuvels," outright haunted. But don't let Monds-Watson's still, unassuming demeanor throw you off: These songs command attention by burrowing deep under the skin, where they can't be dug out so easily.