Soft Hair, the duo of New Zealand psych-pop artist Connan Mockasin and electronic singer-songwriter Samuel Eastgate, a.k.a. LA Priest, have released one of the most bizarre and unique albums of the year with their self-titled debut. Before even giving it a listen, one can anticipate the oddness ahead by looking at the cover, which shows the two members with their arms around each other holding a snake, their creepily red-painted bodies naked down to the torso. Yet the disarming eccentricity of the group might be their greatest strength; they take structurally conventional funky tunes and add something extra, whether its the bleeping electronic voices on opener “Relaxed Lizard” or the warbly, washed out instrumentation of “i.v.”
As if that weren’t enough, they add fun but off-putting lyrics to the hooks of their catchiest tunes. Standout single “Lying Has to Stop” could act as an international smash hit on a different planet with its irresistible groove and smooth falsetto crooning from Mockasin, but lyrics like “I’d like to watch to you run but I’ll never touch your bum” make one ponder the merit of singing along to it mindlessly. Second single “In Love” is a spooky midtempo jam with a great vocal turn from Eastgate and blissfully phased out guitars, but has an even more questionable chorus, “In love with the Japanese girls/in love with the Chinese girls,” which is then accompanied by a wildly disorienting saxophone interlude.
These guys are most definitely out there, and this album certainly isn’t for everyone, but what shines through all the odd production touches, band appearances and quasi-predatorial lyrics is an amazing songwriting sensibility, a quality that trumps all. The fact of the matter is that these are simply wonderfully constructed pop-funk songs that will stick in your head like a sweaty itch, or an itchy sweat, or whatever makes your skin crawl in awe. It is most certainly worth a shot to figure out if you like this feeling or not.