French singer, songwriter, and actress Soko is a diamond in the rough. While the creative arts and music in particular often exude flamboyant excess, sometimes you come across someone who sees things differently, allowing the deep truths of human existence and personal identity to be genuinely illuminated.
Soko has just released her third album, Feel Feelings, a collection of songs vividly paint the LA-based artist’s profound connection and beautiful entanglement with emotion.
Feel Feelings delivers 12 stunning dream-pop tracks that explore the many complexities of life and the power of personal growth and development.
A gushing intensity bleeds from this album in every way, and this may partly be due to the circumstances in which it was created. Following a concentrated week-long retreat at The Hoffman Institute, an organisation that specialises in a psychological deconditioning process to eliminate negative behaviours and patterns developed in childhood, Soko, (real name Stéphanie Sokolinski) started piecing the album together. Her faithful dedication to the program and the newfound ideas she uncovered through it, as well as a year and a half of celibacy, led Soko to make the most important creative breakthrough of her life.
“I wanted to put all the affection I was longing for into the music and give it back to myself. To nurture my record instead of looking for outside validation, or that quick fix of feeling desired.”
Soko created Feel Feelings with the aims of personal freedom, self-love, and total acceptance. While it’s easy to look at the world with rose-tinted glasses while denying an engrained truth, Soko seeks brutal honesty in her self-reflection and worldly observations. She reveals this in layers, placing her explorations within a soaring sonic universe that she has so lovingly created.
Feel Feelings is saturated in shimmering hi-fi groove, broody bass, melodic guitars and sparkling synths – all tied together by vocals which are nothing short of mesmerising. Opening track Are You A Magician? unveils itself slowly, starting like a pensive prom song and blossoming like a flower, bright full of a spiritual power.
Where many pop albums tend to see each track blur into one, Soko has seamlessly curated Feel Feelings so that each new song demands a newfound commitment and deep listening. As the opening track switches to the woozy Being Sad Is Not A Crime, you are taken aback by the artist’s vocal dexterity, a sensation which continues throughout the album’s entirety. While there is undoubtedly an American influence on Soko’s sound, the artist has also nurtured her roots, allowing a sultry French aesthetic to shine through.
Reflecting on the album’s creative process, Sokolinski shared:
“I was very clear about what I wanted everything to sound like, more hi-fi, chorus-y guitars, melodic bass lines, dry drums, pretty synths… I wanted to go back to my young French self’s roots. I was inspired by the production of Air’s 10 000Hz Legend and Serge Gainsbourg’s Melody Nelson. There is something so simple and yet very sexy about those records.”
While Soko maintained her celibacy while bringing Feel Feelings to life, the album is soaked in the sense of intimacy which clearly drives her inspiration. Her voice is often a deep and sensuous purr which blends flawlessly with the album’s instrumentals. This is particularly true in the case of Quiet Storm, one of the album’s most poetic and mesmerising tracks. It’s through Soko’s purposeful effort to not be understated or overstated in her vocals that she finds perfection in between; a holistic and raw snapshot of what lies within her soul.
“I consciously wanted my voice to sound lower, deeper, more androgynous. I wanted the vibe of the tracks to be very slow, intimate, with sexy bass lines. For the first time I didn’t have that imposter syndrome that had been haunting me for years and I felt very supported by my dream cast of musicians/ friends.”
The human experience is wildly unique, yet through her lyrics, we can grasp on to a sense of familiarity. Gently, Soko reminds us that a whole rainbow of emotion can exist within us and that no colour is more beautiful than another. To feel a feeling is the greatest gift, whether that be devastation and despair or euphoric joy.
“This whole record is about embracing all the emotions: joy, bliss, contempt but also fear, sadness, anger… the thrill of it all!”
The album also delves into the distinctive experiences of the Queer community. Oh, To Be A Rainbow! captures the joyous sense of wonder that comes with understanding the magic of your own self – for Soko, to be queer is to be empowered in every way.
“Feel Feelings is about being outwardly queer—being a rainbow: the perfect mix of sun and rain which creates magic. Without the balance of both elements, there’s no magic.”
Many artists think outside the box, but Soko denies there was ever any confinement to begin with. Gazing at the cosmos with open eyes and an open heart reveals opportunities for life-altering introspection. Through an in-depth and curious engagement with the world and her inner realms, Soko has created a deeply atmospheric and stylishly intelligent pop album that differs from the rest.
Feel Feelings is out now via Because Music / Caroline Australia. Get your copy here.