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From my experience it normally takes about 9 months for someone to be an overnight sensation. Having discovered the 18-year-old Londonderry native singer-songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson, aka SOAK, with the release of her debut single 'B a noBody' last September (ages before it was played on Radio 1 but who's keeping score?) I have tracked her musical career with a keen eye. Following being featured on Radio 1's 'Introducing' playlist and widening the reach of her touring, SOAK was picked up by Rough Trade and now, 9 or so months later, the songstress has been plucked from relative obscurity and is now one of the most talked about new acts of the year. At last we have something tangible to support the attention and largely Before We Forgot How To Dream lives up to this hype but not without flaws.

Genre specifications are often very curious phenomena. More so in music than in any other art form, people such as myself who dare to critique the blood, sweat and tears of others deem it vital to find niche and obscure terms of classification to describe the music that people make. Whether it's coining phrases like 'Shoegaze' or shoving 'post' in front of a pre-existing genre, this lazy exercise is something I can really do without. So sure, if we're going to go down that route you would probably describe Before We Forgot How To Dream as a folk record but there are layers upon layers of sounds and intentions which render that label redundant.

The first real song of the album, the aforementioned 'B a noBody' features an electric guitar and a band backing which immediately sticks the 'V's up at your 'folk' nonsense. Sonically the album is gorgeous with string sections a-plenty and ambient noises of the rural world to complement Monds-Watson's solemn guitar and frail, trembling Alto. These elements all combine through the record starting with the instrumental opener '"My Brain"' to create a unifying sound where each song feeds into the next. It's very similar in that respect to Fleet Foxes' 'Helplessness Blues' (which is one of my all-time favourites in case you were wondering) or Scott Matthews' 'What The Night Delivers' both from 2011 (what a year) . Those albums will be stuck in iTunes libraries with 'folk' stuck on it but they are far more ethereal affairs then that tag would have you believe. It sounds instantly familiar but unlike anything you're likely to hear on the radio, and radio is where this album belongs. Tracks like 'B a noBody', 'Sea Creatures' and 'Blud' all have an anthemic sense to them which no doubt will charm on a wider scale than the quieter moments of this album. There are tracks which certainly do have a pop appeal but the album's overall uncertainty is what holds it back from being truly of note.

My biggest problem with this album is not that any of the songs jump out as being bad but it is that there are very few moments which shine. The record is more often stuck in a mire of not wanting to go in one focused direction. As mentioned before, the album is very pretty sounding and is in no way difficult to listen to, but upon reaching closer '"Blind"' there was no real sense of finality. The album starts, you have 42 minutes of lush arrangements with some catchy pop tunes in between and then it sort of ends. Perhaps the prettiness of the album goes against SOAK's strengths as a songwriter. With powerful lyrics like the simple yet haunting line of "I'm afraid of sleep" on 'Shuvels', the production gloss detracts from the intensity. While there are the louder, more radio friendly tracks, the best moments of this album happen when the volume is turned down and the lyrics are allowed to speak for themselves. As SOAK sings on 'Halestones Don't Hurt': "Your voice is the only thing that calms me down."

In spite of my derogatory remarks about genre classifications earlier, I think in many ways this album could have been improved if it was just SOAK, her guitar and her voice left in a big room with a microphone. While it is a solid, if unspectacular debut with promise for the future, it's difficult to fight the feeling that Before We Forgot How To Dream is an album which hides behind big production because it is afraid to be intimate.

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