On Softie, ex-Harlan Pepper Dan Edmonds makes light pop music that sounds like what a velvet tracksuit feels like: cozy as hell.

Dan Edmonds does what many of us are too afraid to do: he tries new things.

As part of the now-defunct Hamilton band Harlan Pepper, he first made largely banjo-centric folk songs (it was the early 2010s after all) and, as the band developed, vintage rock n’ roll. On his first solo record, 2016’s Ladies on the Corner, Edmonds tied-dyed his lo-fi folk songs. Now, on his latest solo album Softie, Edmonds mostly leaves his acoustic guitar in the case and turns to the keyboard to make…light pop music?

Softie sounds like what a velvet tracksuit feels like: cozy as hell. With a pair of heavyweights by his side (Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh produced the record and The National’s Bryan Devendorf plays drums on a handful of songs), Edmonds, often with love on his mind, creates rich and playful pop songs primarily inspired by the works of Burt Bacharach and Randy Newman. In the press material, Edmonds also cites hip-hop and rap acts like Gang Starr and MF Doom as influences which really shines through on “Reprise” as Benita Whyte softly raps verses over Edmonds’ piano-based groove.

With all of the album’s ten songs clocking in at under three minutes, Edmonds doesn’t spend much time lingering on a vibe. The title track starts off with delicate instrumental touches highlighted by a flute that mirrors “the movement of water,” as Edmonds describes. Half-way through the song, the instrumentals briefly clear out except for bright piano trills and an electronic beat, but then in burst a choir of horns, ushering in a whole new celebratory mood.

Edmonds extends this approach to his lyrics as well. Each song feels like being dropped into Edmonds’ brain mid-thought. In fact, as seen in the lyrics on Bandcamp, the final verse of most songs ends with a comma. Take “Three O’clock, Paris,” the album highlight, which finds Edmonds stumbling down the city’s streets enraptured by a woman: “She’s beyond, Mona Lisa, and over the Berlin Wall,” he sings, trailing off. The lyricism of “Fell in Love,” in turn feels like a purposeful closing statement. On the album’s longest track (by one second but still), Edmonds croons, “oh my woman is never wrong, she deserves a long song”. Later, right before a funky sequence that sounds like it was taken from a 1970s game show closes out the track, he sings, period included, “I’m scared to death, someday I may have no love left.”

Given Edmonds’ track record, Softie’s sonic shift feels out of left field on paper. But confidence is deeply rooted in trying something new and Edmonds has a lot of it on Softie which lets him pull it off with ease.

Bruce Peninsula
No Earthly Sound