Editor’s note: This album was originally released by MUZAI Records and since been removed from the label’s catalog. As such, we’ve edited links and info accordingly.
(Not on Label)
Today, we’re thrilled to premiere Paradise Slums, the debut album from English yacht pop/soft music singer-songwriter Medium Soft.
By nature and by necessity, Paradise Slums is a work of low-budget escapism, a picturesque image of a beautiful beach with warm sands, gentle waves, and a bright sun seen at a distance through the lens of thrift-store binoculars that don’t quite work the way they should. Medium Soft operates in large part with little more than a toy nylon acoustic string guitar bought from a market and a Yamaha 4 track tape machine: not because he wants to, but because he has to. To some, that may not seem to be all that relevant; to others, it may even sound like a negative. However, the circumstances under which Paradise Slums was recorded imbue it with a genuineness that seeps through the performances of these simple, laid back pop songs, lending to an empathetic quality that allows us to join Medium Soft in the slums right before he lightly tugs us along into paradise.
Nearly half of Paradise Slums has seen prior release in the form of singles: “Let It Breathe” and instrumental “Sunkissed” in January, followed by “I’m Fine, I Lied” and “Sun in My Eyes” last month. Much of what we said about about “I’m Fine, I Lied” last month more broadly applies to the album as a whole: Medium Soft making effective use of his instrumentation and recording limitations to not make his songs work in spite of them, but because of them. The album’s thinness and shaky tape hiss forcibly masked by plucky tropical melodies is a direct reflection of Medium Soft’s own personal desire imagine his way out of his own situation. How this is made manifest varies to an extent: “I’m Find, I Lied” is present as a very clear struggle to escape, teetering between exhausted and relaxed both in its melody and depressive lyrics, where as the cheery “Sun in My Eyes” is more clearly successful at abandoning reality for something better.
Of the new tracks, most operate on something of a sliding scale between these two poles. The opening title track is not necessarily one to stand out, but effectively sets the album’s mood with its reserved shuffle. “Playing Peekaboo” tackles self-identity, where as “Concrete Wonderland” features the same melodic pop immediacy as “Sun in My Eyes”, but lyrically has more in common with “I’m Fine, I Lied”, with one foot still deeply entrenched in the slums. Perhaps the stand-out among them however is “Epoch & Angel”, a beautiful and warbly ballad lamenting lost love.
Paradise Slums is a record good enough to be well worth revisiting after the peak chaos of the world has begun to subside, but the mileage you can get out of it right now, as most of us have locked ourselves up in our homes, isolated and alone, is immense. I’m looping it over Animal Crossing: New Horizons right now, and together they make quite the island getaway package, melting away stress and anxiety like ice cream on summer days we may not enjoy outside this year. A timely album if there ever was one.
You can stream the entirety of Paradise Slums below:
Favorite tracks: “I’m Fine, I Lied”, “Sun in My Eyes”
Rating: Strongly Recommended