A "soft opening" is a tentative launch meant to work out the kinks and bugs of a new business venture. It's operational, in a sense, but not far from being shut down either, a familiar sensation for anyone that's lived or is living through their twenties. Soft Opening, the debut record from Seattle group Posse, understands that limbo is not a neutral state. It moves at dream pop's delay-streaked pace with jangling garlands of C86, and much like the pleasant horror of the album's cover, there's a strong sense of smothering from all different directions, especially within.
The message is more important than ever: It's normal to be wrapped up in yourself, even lost, so long as you find a way back.
The selfish acts of disconnect within past relationships ("Afraid") that lead to more embarrassments ("Cassandra B," which includes a skewering of white people's concepts of "intelligent rap"); superficial chest-puffing concealing a soul in the fetal position ("Zone"); and looming indecision (the contradictory sequencing of "Talk" and "Shut Up") all feature.
It's the narrative of "Jon," an open letter that could be addressed to the band's drummer, that most personally the band's skillful and poetic obfuscation of truths. Jon's talking on the phone with his girl, and he's sinking, and is a song really going to help him? But it's here that the stretches of wonky, bubbling guitar solos feel most personal in a string of songs containing several. The band make it easy to drift off on the backs of these interludes, glimmering sadly like echoes from a whale's belly. There is hopeful stuff at the root of all this pain and discord, and it deserves some air too.
If we're just wasting our time, Posse find ways to make it pretty. Soft Machine is not ungrateful for youth, but totally honest about the confusion that comes with it, especially today. As such, Soft Opening is a descendent of the Love Rock manifesto that found its way into K Records' guiding philosophy, now for a generation swamped with an Internet-tonne of visible talent and social detachment. The message is more important than ever: It's normal to be wrapped up in yourself, even lost, so long as you find a way back.