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Album Review
Fight Softly

Fight Softly
by The Ruby Suns

Lil Chief

Review Date
17th February 2010
Reviewed by
Gareth Meade

The oxymoronically titled Fight Softly is also somewhat of an oxymoron itself, certainly in regards to The Ruby Suns previous release Sea Lion. Of course, anyone who has read interviews with Ryan McPhun about this new album will know that if not purposely distancing himself from the sound on Sea Lion, then he was certainly aiming for something different. And maybe ‘something different’ is the best introduction to Fight Softly, as apart from retaining a familiar calypso flavour on some of its ten tracks, the album is overall something new.

The crux, at least to these ears, is that there isn’t as much fun to be had here as on previous releases. Opener ‘Sun Lake Rinsed’ is the perfect example. Although boasting a blossoming quality, the track lacks a truly attention grabbing pace or hook. It’s one of a few things that reoccur throughout the album; such as production that can best be described as a drenching of layers of reverb, ultimately shifting McPhun’s vocals to the rear; and also a nagging resemblance to Owl City’s ‘Fireflies’. Take from that what you will.

However, there are truly revelatory moments to be had; the most prominent of which occurs four songs in. ‘Cranberry’ comes strolling out of the gate only to wind up cantering into a thoroughly sun-soaked chorus. It’s the use of international flavour that we know The Ruby Suns are so good at melding into something unique. But as quickly as it came, it’s gone again, as ‘Closet Astrologer’ returns to the template of ‘Sun Lake Rinsed’; a quasi Animal Collective vibe without any of that groups charm and subtlety. Which is a shame, simply because we know that The Ruby Suns are entirely capable of just that.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to do something different. It must be a difficult decision for any musician to either follow the tried and true path or stretch themselves in a new direction. ‘Dusty Fruit’ is the perfect example of the latter paying off. It has that element of fun without straying into novelty; something that Fight Softly is sorely missing. Luckily the album closer ‘Olympics on Pot’ also retains that quality, which at least means that the album ends of a high note. But it also makes you wish that there were more to be had.

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