The first time I listened to the self-titled full-length debut of Soft Serve I was immediately comfortable. Everything from the simple and steady drumbeats, to the lightly shimmering guitar lines, to the never-anything-but-calm vocals, made Soft Serve one of the most relaxing records to come out of Vancouver in the past year. Even the pace at which the band releases their music is laid back — their only prior release is a three-song EP from over two years ago.
Upon listening to it again, attempting to get a better sense of the songs, of the band, of the personality of the music, I found myself exactly where I was the first time around. It’s nice, it’s easy and that’s about it. Streamlined against any excess, every one of the nine songs is pleasant, through and through. Made up of two guitarists, a drummer and a bassist, all doing exactly what one would expect of them, Soft Serve isn’t afraid to keep it simple.
By the third, fourth, fifth listen, I struggled to find any more to say about it. With bands of a similar sound — i.e. Real Estate, Mac Demarco, Beach Fossils — already occupying a large space in the popular contemporary music sphere, Soft Serve are playing to a well-established audience. They lack a certain amount of the clarity of Real Estate, the character of Mac Demarco and the emotional directness of Beach Fossils, but Soft Serve still sound just as comfortable playing their sunny, relaxed guitar music. While the tempo of some of the tracks are certainly set at a danceable pace, the simple instrumentation, conservative use of effects and reliance on traditional pop song structure make the entire record feel thoroughly easy-going and routine.
Perhaps boring is too strong a word to describe Soft Serve. But it can easily be described as unimaginative, conventional and safe. Soft Serve may not be serving up anything we haven’t heard before, but they certainly know that everyone likes vanilla.