The Soft Moon

Deeper

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With music and real estate, sometimes it's all about location. Luis Vasquez wrote the Soft Moon's second album, Zeros, in the midst of a hectic tour, but when it came time to make Deeper, he sequestered himself in Venice, using his isolation as a source of inspiration -- and confrontation. An unflinching examination of despair, this is easily Vasquez's most emotional album. Where the eye-of-the-storm calm of his previous work suggested he was holding it all in, here he lets it all out in ways that feel necessary and inevitable; "Inward"'s synth scree and whispery vocals bring a newfound catharsis to his music. He gets up close and personal with different kinds of solitude, delineating the shadings between loneliness, abandonment, and escape on songs like the pitch-black breakup ballad "Without" and "Try," a swampy post-punk soundtrack to hitting bottom. The fact that Vasquez avoided confessional songwriting previously makes the album all the more powerful and purposeful; when he laments "I feel so empty inside" over spring-loaded bass and guitar on "Feel," it sounds convincing instead of clich├ęd. Deeper also presents a wider-ranging Soft Moon. As Vasquez explores the more reflective side of his music, the results are as strong as they are vulnerable, particularly on the gorgeously melancholic and melodic "Wasting." Yet there's also a momentum to the harder-hitting tracks that feels unique to the album. Instead of a steady grind, Vasquez strips Deeper's industrial leanings to their barest wires and circuits on the factory of self-loathing that is "Wrong" and builds them to near-symphonic grandeur on the relentless title track. In its own way, the transformation his music undergoes here recalls the one Lust for Youth underwent on their 2014 album International: this is Vasquez's most accessible music, not because he made any compromises, but because its artful pruning and attention to songcraft enhances the purity of his expression. Ultimately, Deeper's most important location is his heart; by looking within it, he's made his most relatable, and compelling, music to date.

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