from Blurt Magazine
Soft News' cover versions of Journey’s Separate Ways and Who’s Crying Now? are destined to become the ultimate party-starters: their sleek, neo-baroque stylings are perfectly suited to a Glee inspired cocktail party for Millennials.
Holocaust, the Alex Chilton / Big Star gem, rarely fails to break hearts and shatter egos no matter the incarnation, and Laroi here proves he truly understands the tune’s core aesthetic.
from the folks at the blog Cover Me
Used Melodies reaches #9 on their 2014 year end list of best cover albums ... sitting comfortably between #10's Farewell Transmission: The Music Of Jason Molina and #8's Look Again To The Wind: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited.
Rent reaches #28 on there 2014 year end list of best cover songs, nestled amongst Jack White's cover of Hello=Fire's Parallel (#27) and Lucinda Williams' cover of JJ Cale's Magnolia (#26).
Used Melodies is billed as a collection of soft rock cover songs from the ’80s, but that seriously undersells it. For one, there’s a Big Star song from ’78, and a few tracks from the ’90s. Though the songs may be quiet, Used Melodies is not some tongue-in-cheek Michael McDonald genre exercise. Whether doing A-ha or Rod Stewart, Laroi eschews the obvious at every turn – they cover two Journey songs, and neither is the one you’re thinking of. You’ll never be so moved by Billy Idol.
from the folks at the blog Cool Dad Music
New York songwriter Erik Laroi, working here under the name Soft News, has taken several of the songs from New Order's seminal 1987 compilation Substance and reworked them into quiet acoustic versions, embellished with strings arranged by Perry Serpa and some ethereal backing vocals from Lorraine Lelis. Laroi strips these songs of their technical ornamentation to reveal the expert pop songwriting underneath.
Temptation starts quiet and plaintive, building to a beautiful duet as Laroi and Lelis sing "and I've never seen anyone quite like you before" over some subdued yet soaring strings. The eminently recognizable hook from The Perfect Kiss comes amid some Latin beats here, making this version a different type of dance track than the 8+ minute original.
Both Blue Monday and True Faith become ominously dark and foreboding. Each is carried along by a string arrangement that could place it on the soundtrack to a period film set in some European royal court.
Things are lighter on the bossa nova-esque Bizarre Love Triangle. The original's staccato beats and sharp edges make it an all-time dance classic. Here, it's smooth, quiet, and jazzy -- conveying the image of a smoky room with fans twirling overhead rather than a packed dance floor with strobing lights.
Soft News do an excellent job handling these songs. Laroi reveals not only a real sense of what gives the songs on Substance their essence, but also a great facility with the sounds that comprise what we might call "soft rock." Far from being something like elevator music, though, Soft News' Fact 200 employs these styles to highlight the darkness and universal danceability inherent in many of these tracks.
from The Deli Magazine
Soft News, the NYC alt-folk project of Erik Laroi, is releasing an EP of classical-infused Everything But The Girl covers entitled Ben & Tracey. The four covers dramatically reimagine the originals, stripping away the sophistipop masters' electronic arrangement in favor of a chamber instrumentation. Cello and violins abound on this release, and the instrumentalists' mastery of dynamics lends a contemplative, melancholy air to the songs.
from music journalist Bernard Zuel
Well this could have gone very badly.
An EP of Everything But The Girl songs done by a chamber group is an intriguing idea, with the potential for a bit of artsy wankery adding a frisson of apprehension.
That the songs come from the latter half of the English band’s career, when they emphasised rhythm and the potential for dance, but are now arranged at half speed (or less) and the production modes pared back, raises the danger even as it makes perfect sense.
Doing all that while having Tracy Thorn’s voice replaced principally by a crooning man who sometimes leans more to speak-singing, is bold. Some of us could listen to Thorn sing the shopping list and be happy, and while her partner Ben Watt always contributed some lead vocals, these songs and the band were defined by Thorn’s voice.
The risk takers here are Erik Laroi, the principal element of New York art ensemble Soft News, and arranger Charles Newman (whose work with The Magnetic Fields resonates here), and they give the string quartet basis a better than even chance of succeeding.
In Lullaby Of Clubland, Newman posits agitated cello against both picked and bowed violin at the beginning and release/relief only arrives after a minute. That release is merely half fulfilled though, the temperature here chilled. This is the end of an ambiguous night.
Wrong is smoother but also cuts against the expectation of warmth, the intent speculative against the interplay of Laroi’s voice in the foreground with that of Lorraine Lelis in the background.
Laroi pitches Five Fathoms nearer Thorn’s open mind about the night around and ahead of her, even as he sings “the only way out is down”, to which Lelis responds “I want to love more”. It is the strings which keep pricking us with the suggestion (more hinted than stated) of the thin line between comfort and disturbance in a walk through a city night.
It is in Single that voice and instruments forge a single path, splashes of melancholy alternating without ever taking the full dive into melodrama. Even here though, the romantic flourish serves to keep assumptions just at bay.
So the initial fears were unfounded: taking Thorn and Watt’s songs down a new path suggestive of more brambles than ferns, works well. And Laroi is smart enough to see that four tracks is just right for this trip.