Album Review: Sun Airway – “Soft Fall”

Sun Airway made waves in 2010 with their critically acclaimed debut album, Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier. The group has been one of the bands foremostly responsible for the emergence of the popular micro-genre “chillwave.” Since then, Jon Barthmus has been honing his craft, recording the follow-up to Nocturne at his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The result is Soft Fall.

Soft Fall is, at surface value, a sharp, atmospheric, and catchy album. Barthmus channels an array of his predecessors, ranging from Coldplay’s Chris Martin to Robert Smith of The Cure. Set aside all of that fuzzy texture and reverb–find that Barthmus never loses his pop sensibilities. It’d be easy to simply say that Soft Fall is a sonic wonderland of sounds, with landscapes of electronic whirrs and paced drums, an album of exploration. But then, there are the songs. We’ve written about lead single “Close” before; it’s a strong track in and of itself, and as an album opener (it follows the one minute “Activity 1), it commands attention. “Laketop Swimmers” is another dreamy song that’s easy to get lost in.

However much Soft Fall seems like a dance album, the sentiments are achingly melancholic. “I don’t want your trouble or your troubled mind,” and, “mostly I just feel lost,” Barthmus sings in “Wild Palms.” “I never hear you on the radio, I know, but I still feel you on my radio, I’m sure,” on “Black Noise.” Barthmus makes it clear this isn’t an album to be taken lightly. He’s right. Soft Fall is a tremendous artistic accomplishment.

About author
Kelli Nastasi is an American writer and photographer living in Paris, France. She likes dogs, space, and Mary J. Blige.

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