(Profound Lore Records)
The best post-punk of the 80s were really emotional listening experiences; you could feel the pain and torment in the dream-y soundscapes and haunting melodies. Unfortunately, San Diego-by-way-of-Portland group Soft Kill don’t have to look far for their inspiration. Vocalist Tobias V.H. struggled with drug addiction and a (to put it mildly) frustrating few years getting himself back after the traumatic experiences. I don’t know exactly what it is, but Choke, the band’s third record, really fucking got to me. Maybe it’s my real life job working in public health, but like so many classic post-punk and darkwave bands, the music of Soft Kill is moving and affecting. This is less Joy Division and more The Chameleons, The Sound, and certainly The Cure, which makes for a sound that’s basically synth-y shoegaze before shoegaze was a thing. The songs themselves maybe don’t stand out as much as they could, but Choke feels more like a record meant to be consumed at once, rather than a set of eight individual servings. The twinkling leads and V.H.’s distant voice stand out, but from the beginning of “Whirl”, you are drawn into Soft Kill’s world. Thank God it’s as fascinating as it is full of despair.