Album Review: Soular System
Album Review: DAY IN DAY OUT - Soular System (Released March 18th, 2022)
Written by Jasmine Navarro
Soular System returns with their third release, DAY IN DAY OUT. The nine track album deftly mixes jazz changes with a groovy neo-soul aesthetic, creating a 23-minute listening experience so immersive and serene you won’t be able to stop running it back. Soular System’s genesis originated at Poly High School in 2012, when drummer/producer/songwriter Tom Kendall Hughes and lead vocalist Anthony Lynn met in the music program. The teenage pair began writing tunes in Hughes’ childhood bedroom, until they had enough to fill an EP. “Each tune at that point was a dance of songwriting elements,” Tom recalls via email. On one early track, “Aurora”, Hughes wrote the beat and Lynn wrote the lyrics. On another, Lynn improvised over one of Hughes’ poems. “It was like magic–I sent him the spoken word, and in one take he created the melody and phrasing that lives on the final record,” Hughes says of Lynn. “He’s a stunning vocalist–one of a kind and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Photo by: _BrandonCPhotography
As the songs developed, Soular System began performing as a live collective, with musician friends rotating in and out of the lineup as availability permitted, an approach that Hughes says allowed the band to explore many different sounds. After a couple years of fluctuating members, the current iteration of the band formed, adding Jake Abernathie (keys/synth), Andrei Kvapil (bass/bass synth), Trevor Torres (Electric Violin/Viola), and Gracie Sprout (electric harp/vocals). Garrett Dahl contributed as the FOH engineer and Kevin Perez recorded guitar across the album. DAY IN DAY OUT hits the ground running with “Lawn Order”, a lush track driven by a drum and bass beat, a shredding saxophone, lush synth pads and Lynn scatting. It melts into “Stage Five I” and “Stage Five II” during which the listener, pleasantly disoriented by the chaos of the first track is suddenly drawn in by Lynn’s soulful plea to a wishy-washy lover to free him from an on-again-off-again cycle. The next song, “Good Life” explores Long Beach’s collective personal reckoning with abusers and grooming in the music scene, and features a rare vocal performance by Hughes rather than Lynn. It’s a funky pocket-jam that takes aim at a disgraced musician the group had shared a scene with. “‘Cause we know that you lied / And we know that she’s right / And you know you can’t hide / So say your goodbyes,” Hughes warns, almost like he’s writing an open letter. At the bridge, Sprout’s ethereal vocals advise the listener, “Don’t just listen, believe her”.
The second half of the album is a serene response to the tough emotions being tackled at the beginning of the album; the tunes are quieter and a little more soulful than jazzy, like waves crashing gently on the shore at night. Without losing steam, the songs continue to wind around Abernathie’s lush synth basslines, Hughes’ dynamic drumming, Torres’ and Sprout’s shimmery strings (“Night Cap” is like a soul-ballad-meets-a-classic-film score), and Kvapil’s groovy basslines, providing the perfect framework for Lynn’s angelic vocals to carry the listener away.
Favorite songs: good life, stage five II, lawn order
Photo by: _BrandonCPhotography