SOFT PEAKS “self-titled EP”
C16 (Harford & Reckord)

It figures that the first tape I’ve tackled has a broken case. I don’t know if this is a sign of things to come, but it’s a bad start, Soft Peaks. A bad start. It’s ominous. And it’s probably not even your fault. You know whose fault it probably is? The U.S. Postal Service’s. Don’t get me started on them – I’ll fill your Twitter feed with illogical left-field rants for hours. I’m known to do that when I can receive the intermittent stolen Internet connection in my remote Unibomber shack.

Oh right, Soft Peaks is a band too, not just a bunch of dudes who can’t package their music right. (Kidding! Again, Postal Service.) The Baltimore tunesmiths’ resume actually reads like a who’s who of bands that you think you’ve heard of but can’t quite figure out from where: TigerBearWolf, Nakano, Madagascar, Deceiver, and … Health. (I really want to know which of these guys was in Health. Seriously.)

To my surprise, their self-titled cassette EP is a jangly pleasure, a country-tinged alt-rock/power pop record that owes as much to the Byrds and Uncle Tupelo as it does to the Replacements and R.E.M. For sixteen minutes, I found myself smiling from ear to ear, because there’s nothing better in the midst of winter’s cold brutality than a ray of sunshine, and Soft Peaks shimmer like the fading light off the cirrus formation illuminating the J-card. There’s even a song called “We’ve Got All Summer,” a three-minute trifle that’s begging to be rewound.

It’s easy to picture Soft Peaks closing out a set at Fletcher’s with the last-call melancholia of “Dig My Ride,” right before the drunks stagger out the doors and onto the streets of Fells Point, stumbling toward cabs but hopefully not their own cars. We don’t want them driving. It’s also easy to imagine the stack of these tapes dwindling swiftly from the local bin at the Soundgarden, once the word gets out that Soft Peaks is actually pretty good. Also, Baltimore, Baltimore, blah blah, Orioles, etc. And boo Ravens.

Side note – I once saw Ministry in Baltimore, on their Adios tour. I doubt any of the Soft Peaks crew were in attendance.

--Ryan “Terminal Velocity” Masteller