The Softies

The Bed I Made (Father/Daughter Records) LP

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Some things transcend time. Friendship, self-discovery, the excitement of love, the sense of awakening that comes with new beginnings. These eternal feelings have long been embodied by The Softies, the musical duo of Rose Melberg and Jen Sbragia whose songs convey galaxy-sized emotions with stunning grace and straightforwardness. The chemistry shared by the two best friends has resulted in a minimal pop soundworld unlike any other, and multiple albums that perfectly articulate their upheaval, joy, confusion, and metamorphosis using almost exclusively just guitar and vocals. The band was first active throughout the ‘90s, intersecting with various independent movements of that time but existing outside of scenes, eras, and ideologies, doing their own thing in a way only they could in a constantly-shaking snow globe of their own making. So much has changed and changed again since Melberg and Sbragia began writing their impossibly beautiful songs of fire and melancholy, but never has the Softies’ timelessness been more apparent than on The Bed I Made, their first new album in 24 years.


The Softies formed in January of 1994, intended at first to be an outlet for more experimental and potentially less accessible sounds when Melberg felt that her fuzzy, lovelorn punk band Tiger Trap had grown uncomfortably popular too fast. Over the next six years, they recorded albums for Slumberland and K, toured a bit, and created uncluttered and fearlessly vulnerable statements that existed in sharp contrast to the post-grunge fallout and indie rock smirking of the late ‘90s. The Softies made music more powerful in its hush than so much of the screaming that surrounded them. Things shifted sometime in the start of the 2000s, with both band members focusing on other projects (Sbragia playing in All Girl Summer Fun Band and Melberg remaining consistently involved with solo material, production, and roles in multiple bands), but The Softies weren’t the kind of band that breaks up. As early as 2012, they began reuniting for special occasion live sets made up of their now-classic songs. Life continued, always messy and sometimes incomprehensibly difficult. Both friends lost their mothers within two months of each other. Sharing this very specific pain, Melberg and Sbragia rediscovered the comfort in writing music together, using sad songs as a lifeline in a time that felt like drowning. At the same time, but on the complete opposite side of this grief, Sbragia was experiencing a musical rejuvenation after a long dormancy. Shows were slowly happening again following a few weird years, and after attending the Oakland Weekender in 2022, she knew it was time. The world had been ready for a new Softies album, and now the Softies were ready to make it. 


Once the plan was in motion, everything fell quickly into place. Though based in separate cities (Melberg in Vancouver, BC and Sbragia in Portland, Oregon), over a nine month period, the duo made time to meet up for the writing, demoing, and detailing of new material, eventually heading to Anacortes, Washington studio the Unknown to record. Though it had been more than 20 years since the Softies entered a studio, what emerged from these sessions was uncannily in keeping with the band’s original vision. The sighing melodies and lighter-than-air dual vocals of “Tiny Flame” are pure Softies, and the gorgeously heartbroken “California Highway 99” tangles the familiar elements of Sbragia’s dreamwoven guitar leads, Melberg’s precise narrative lyricism, and a song structure that feigns simplicity before introducing unexpected turns. At the same time, Melberg’s evolution as a songwriter comes through in new angles from which these familiar sounds are felt. Neatly refined three-part vocal harmonies peek out from behind several corners, adding a glistening sheen to the lucid jangle of album opener “Go Back In Time.” The sophisticated arrangement on the deceptively relaxed sounding “I Said What I Said” is part of a larger developmental arc that Melberg has been steadily building on with an array of projects for the entire time between the last Softies album and now. While the music still blooms from the insular sweetness of an immutable friendship, The Bed I Made also reflects how much these friends have grown as artists and as people. Furthering this thread of timelessness and newness intermingling, The Softies’ brilliant return after so many years away is also their first album with their new label Father/Daughter Records.


It would have been so easy to lean into the faded nostalgia of younger feelings, using new songs to recreate the remembered bedrooms and side streets of a long-ago time. Instead, these 14 songs bravely document scattered glances at the interim years since The Softies wandered into hiatus in 2000. Everything that happens in the lyrics is economically drawn from real life, with stories that reveal healing slowly transpiring, wisdom taking unlikely shapes, and instincts being realized. Through their perfectly-paired harmonies and telepathic playing, Melberg and Sbragia transcribe where they’re at now, where they’ve been lately, and what it’s shown them. So often, albums made by those in their middle-age become about middle-age, about lessons and regrets and how much is different now compared to then. While there are flashes of new understanding, these songs only move forward, alive with hope and renewal even when confronting some of life’s harsher realities. The Bed I Made feels like a natural continuation of everything The Softies have always been, still sounding like the musical equivalent of time spent with the friend that knows you better than anyone else. Much in the way those life-affirming connections often do, these songs pick up as if no time has passed at all, ironically enough, finding their inspirations in the strange, awe-striking, devastating, and beautiful time that has passed. 

Songs:

  1. Go Back In Time
  2. I Said What I said
  3. To You from Me
  4. Tiny Flame
  5. When I Started Loving You
  6. Just Someone
  7. California Highway 99
  8. Dial Tone
  9. The Bed I Made
  10. 23rd Birthday
  11. Sigh Sigh Sigh
  12. Headphones
  13. Foot Path
  14. Don't Fall Apart