“An enchanting brew of grunge and shoegaze with the DIY attitude of riot grrrl punk.” Twin siblings Softcult continue to evolve in thrilling new ways on Heaven

Canadian siblings Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn expand their riotgaze sound on new EP, Heaven

(Image: © softcult)

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Since their debut EP Year of the Rat emerged in 2021, Softcult have been a captivating band to watch. The duo, made up of twin siblings Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn, have spent the years since honing what they call their “riotgaze” sound, an enchanting brew of grunge and shoegaze with the do-it-yourself attitude of '90s riot grrrl punk. On their fourth release, Heaven, the pair explore the issues that affect our day-to-day life, from toxic capitalism and anxiety to intersectional feminism, all while sharpening their ethereal craft.

The EP sees them introduce new elements to their trademark dream-pop sound. Spiralling Out is perhaps the most typical Softcult track on the album, with hypnotic, repeating guitar riffs that link well to the subject matter of anxiety and the vicious cycle of overthinking. Heaven sees them use a similarly dreamy shoegaze style, but the raw production makes it feel particularly intimate, crafting a simple but breathtakingly beautiful conclusion to the EP that devolves into blurry guitars before a slow fade out. 9 Circles is more ominous, like Spit It Out from Softcult’s Year of the Snake EP, and adds a moment of intrigue at the record’s midpoint.

With One of the Pack, they lean more heavily into their grunge and punk influences with their own otherworldly version of Bikini Kill’s 1993 feminist anthem Rebel Girl. This time around, they’re celebrating all women in a hymn for the intersectional feminist as they sing “How can they say you don’t belong? / But you’re so strong, you’re so strong.” In the chorus, they swap out their typically soft vocals for ecstatic screams of “But girl if you need me / You know I got your back / I hope when you see me / You know you’re one of the pack.” It’s not a new message for Softcult - inclusivity has always been front of mind for the duo - but One of the Pack is special for its celebratory outlook and is undoubtedly among their best songs.  

Another key moment on the EP is Shortest Fuse, which deals with toxic work culture. Softcult have always taken on broad issues in their music, but there’s something more personal and refined here. Shortest Fuse feels particularly authentic, that they’re basing their observations on their own lived experiences.

Heaven is an exciting progression in Softcult’s musicianship which sees the duo’s production and lyricism become sharper and more focused, without losing the dreamlike quality that drew listeners in from their very first release. As with every Softcult EP up to now, it leaves you wanting more, an issue which will hopefully one day be rectified soon with the arrival of a debut full-length album.

Freelance writer, Louder

In addition to contributing to Louder, Vicky writes for The Line of Best Fit, Gigwise, New Noise Magazine and more.