With their sophomore effort, Lenses, Soft Metals succeed in whittling down their debut’s brand of gloomy electronica into a more focused and less indulgently experimental style. The opening title track establishes a familiar formula, assembling meticulously textured percussion and synth lines, but rather than shift back and forth in mood and tone as on their previous effort, the new songs are more refined and coherent. The synth-pop duo’s songwriting displays greater emotional depth and structure this time around as well, while Patricia Hall’s reverb-laden purr no longer drifts languidly in and out of the dense instrumentation, but judiciously haunts individual tracks. With lyrics centering largely on themes of intense symbiotic love, it’s worth noting that Hall and her musical partner, Ian Hicks, are also romantic partners. This adds even more weight to the expressions of helpless surrender throughout the album, as in “When I Look Into Your Eyes,” where defiant declarations of affection are made while facing a bleak vision of the future in which “I die/And he dies/We all die.” “On a Cloud” leaves plenty of space for disarmingly tender coos from a love-struck Hall while “In the Air” transforms a couple of repetitive chords into an exuberant LCD Soundsystem-style celebration that plays like two stubborn partygoers categorically rejecting sleep. Combining a driving beat with melancholy vocals may not exactly be anything new in pop music, but the juxtaposition of the two here elicits an entrancing state more conducive to impassioned swaying than outright dancing.
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