With two very different follow-up singles to their well-received 2017 full-length debut American Men, San Luis Obispo, CA based real life marrieds Caleb Nichols and John Metz – collectively dba as Soft People – prove that sometimes a similar buoyant vibe can underscore songs about emotional pain as well as romantic exultation. Their first offering was the electronic hypno groove meets crisp guitar driven gem “I Saw The Moon!” which uses its fresh retro flow to reflect the fast beating heart behind Nichols’ ethereal singing about falling in love, using the moon as a metaphor for the mystery, of course.
The extended intro to “The Absolute Boy” is all swirly and jangly hypnosis and feel good rhythms, seeming to set us up for more whimsy – but we quickly realize, once Nichols’ more emotionally grounded vocals begin, that we’re being invited into a deeper place in his heart. The song may be Nichols’ most personal to date, a harrowing (but, as mentioned, melodically bright and infectious) loss of innocence narrative dealing with his struggle with PTSD resulting from years of early childhood abuse.
The music is about as cheerful as the lyrics are traumatic and cathartic – but his compelling vocals ensure we pay attention. In essence, it’s his attempt to wrap his mind around the concept of generational domestic violence, addressing his own abuse and the possible reasons for it via the abuse his own abuser suffered in his own childhood. The internal struggle really hits home when the beats and guitar stop before the last chorus and the singer is left alone to address his abuser most vulnerably – without the support of anything light in his current life.
The devastating words of the hook pierce the heart at that point like never before: “Before you hit me / before you clipped my wings / I was the absolute boy / I was him absolutely.” Anyone who says that these days a narrative masterpiece can’t be found in a breezy three and a half minute pop songs simply needs to listen to this amazing duo and this transcendent tune.