When it comes to John Lutkevich’s intimate, guitar-driven music, the meaning of “bedroom pop”—a label that’s been commonly assigned to him—becomes quite literal. For his debut full-length release as Soft Fangs, out now via Exploding in Sound and Disposable America Records, the multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter recorded most of the material in the attic of his childhood home, giving the record an inimitably woolly texture and cloistered feel. But the eleven tracks on The Light stretch way beyond the confines of the DIY label.
Certainly, though, Soft Fangs is a DIY solo project to its core. Lutkevich writes and records all of the music himself, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with his previous work as frontman of the four-piece band The Devil and a Penny, which remained active from 2007 until 2013. Lutkevich took on much of the writing, recording, and production work for the band’s four albums, and when they called it quits he simply continued making music by himself. By the end of 2014, he would release a five-track EP on his own, titled soft fangs.
The Light formally establishes Lutkevich’s solo career under the Soft Fangs pseudonym. The LP opens with soft guitar strums and Lutkevich’s whimpery vocals, but “Dragon Soap” quickly develops into a well-rounded, even lush sounding track. Many of the songs here have a velvety quality to them, as well as a damp percussive sound that implies a marshy, cavernous atmosphere. Often, though, this is balanced by floaty electronic effects. In the closing title track, for example, Lutkevich employs some rather lurid, radiating keyboard sounds that effectively call to mind a glowing, faraway light.
Though bedroom pop is at least a partly accurate descriptor, Soft Fangs seems heavily informed by emo, given lyrics that wear Lutkevich’s heart on their sleeves (touching on topics like growing older, not being able to find a job, and death) and a fuller, heavier sound all around. On “Golden,” the electric guitars become so dense that they nearly form a shoegaze-esque wall of sound. There are times, though, when electronic pop comes heavily into play as well—take, for example, the fourth track, “Birthday,” which erupts halfway through into a woozy, keyboard-driven head bobber. And the minute-and-a-half long “Get a Job” offers a quick respite into a more immediately catchy and briskly-paced melody, revealing another side to Lutkevich’s songwriting.
Perhaps the most “bedroom pop” element of Soft Fangs’ output is its general tenor; The Light feels very much like a cozy, private affair that we're lucky to listen in on. It’s an extremely introspective album, while also being incredibly relatable, and ends up doing a good job of drawing you in and making you feel close to it within no time at all. Appropriately, given Lutkevich’s chosen moniker, The Light will sink its teeth, ever so tenderly, into your skin if you give it a chance.