The overhanging melodious ringing in the background is restless, perhaps even desperate…
While waiting in the room of the doctor's office, singer Alex Schaaf is uncomfortably alone. The even tempo continues while he attempts to distract himself with a plethora of magazines instead of the bruise on his thigh whose hues of green and blue deeply concern him. Despite the gentle harmonies that accompany his vocals, the scene he sets is lonesome. Light acoustic strumming fades back into the same ringing that outlined the initial setting of the waiting room. Now that his recollection of the appointment is over and the guitar has completed its dismal dialogue, he is right back where he started with that same lingering chime. Schaaf, yearning to feel alright, ends the first track (Body of Mine) of the album Soft with a sense of emptiness and introspective intrigue that, in this writer’s opinion continues to captivate until the last song.
Yellow Ostrich’s Soft consists heavily of odes to various memories such as these. Enveloped with vivid lyrics and nuanced sonic layers, we feel like we are right there at the scene of the moments he describes.
This same sense of connection can be felt towards the people referenced in his lyrics. In John, Schaaf speaks earnestly to the song’s titular subject:
John, you were right, I should have listened to you that night, darlin’
He describes how they’ve been friends since childhood, but it’s safe to infer that there is more intimacy between the two. He yearns--
Just give me some sort of substance, Something I can get lost in, oh
Once again, the dismally oscillating chimes make their appearance, lingering and reverberating over his mellow vocals. A soft piano sequence enters the song about one third of the way in, while guitar sequences throughout end in clearly pronounced higher pitches, as if forming musical question marks. And then, perhaps hoping for some sort of closure he sings--
Why's it so hard to say what lives in our hearts?
Yellow Ostrich’s SOFT Ends a Seven Year Hiatus
“…Cause what's a man,” he sings, “I'm just as soft as I can be…”
Whether it’s songs about pressures to conform to masculine behavior or needing a friend, the lyrics in Soft are what allow for the profound richness of Yellow Ostrich’s mellow sound, in this reviewer’s opinion. You might find that they speak right to your soul, especially if you’ve ever experienced heartbreak or extended periods of hopelessness.
With layers of jazz, electronic editing, and classic acoustic, the record is coffee-house listening turned up a notch. Those who appreciate thoughtful lyrics that double as poetry will find the progression of Soft to be deeply moving. Put this album on when you’ve got a queue of tasks to complete, when you’re on a walk, or if your stress levels are higher than normal. If you don’t care for indie music, then perhaps this album is not for you. But with its eclectic mix of jazz, indie rock, and lo-fi pop, Soft will likely appeal to a diverse array of musical tastes.
Band: Yellow Ostrich
Drummer: Marian Li-Pino
Bassist: Megan Mahoney
Guitarist: Mike Noyce
Studio and mix engineer: Zach Hanson
Guest Appearance: Jon Natchez
To purchase SOFT, visit the Yellow Ostrich page on Barsuk Music.
Images courtesy of Yellow Ostrich
About the Author: Abby Utley
Abby Utley writes as a method of truth-seeking. Getting to the bottom of things is her prerogative, and so is keeping her music playlists fresh. Although she puts originality at the forefront of her written pieces, she finds the most inspiration after immersing herself in other art forms. When she's not writing, you may find her at the rock climbing gym, where she may take a break thirty minutes into her workout to write a satirical article. Finding humor where one may not expect is another one of Abby's prerogatives that allows her to think out of that stingy ole box that so many adults find themselves trapped in. She thinks tapping back into a childlike imagination is something all writers should work towards.