The glamorous vibe Soft Metals exude on Lenses may or may not be due to Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks' move from Portland to L.A., but it's undeniable that their mix of dance and synth pop sounds more sophisticated here than it did on their self-titled debut. They tone down the playful experiments and cheap and cheerful keyboard sounds that gave Soft Metals an indie pop patina, opting for a sleek, slick palette that comes to the fore on instrumentals like "Interobserver," which closes the album in a cloud of synth arpeggios. Similarly, Lenses' beats are much more prominent and finely honed; "Tell Me," which boasts programming by Optimo's J.D. Twitch, is a percolating standout that makes good on the dance leanings of Soft Metals. More often than not, though, Hall's vocals are the focus for the wispy electronics around her, and the more propulsive direction the duo takes on these songs gives her breathy musings more structure. She's also grown as a singer, coloring "On a Cloud" with an R&B tinge that recalls Grimes and giving her allure a slightly threatening edge on "No Turning Back," where she sings "You think you don't need me/But you have never gone without." Despite the newfound sense of purpose they display on Lenses, Soft Metals still favor subtlety instead of big statements, and it's only on the percolating "In the Air" -- which combines the best of their pop instincts and their hypnotic dance leanings -- that they even approach immediacy. Even if Lenses' individual tracks remain as foggy as dry ice on the dancefloor, as a whole the album brings Soft Metals' music into focus, revealing them as a tighter, more versatile group in the process.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares