On ‘Heaven,’ Soft and Dumb strip back layers to bare their souls

The Chicago-based duo's latest EP continues showing their expertise in capturing big emotions with a gentle touch.
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Music stirs my soul while coffee jolts my engine - together they make the perfect fuels to power creativity. Contact: Instagram: @mythoughtspresso or email me at: dpths7@gmail.com

Elena Buenrostro and Travis Newgren, the duo behind the band Soft and Dumb, craft infectious, emotionally raw tunes filled with relatable lyrics that hit home and burrow into your brain. Their music is gentle and flowing while mixing in some unsettling elements, such as haunting synths or gritty riffs, keeping the ambiance compelling, and giving the melodies an off-kilter charm. They fuse light and dark themes, exploring personal topics like gender identity, connections between people, and detachment issues. Drawing influences from indie pop and punk rock influences Soft and Dumb aim to shed light on the complexities of being vulnerable yet rebellious. Their experimental, unexpected twists and turns in the composition keep you on your toes. But don’t let the dissonance fool you because, at their core, they write touching songs full of heart and soul, and their latest release Heaven, is a whimsical continuation of their indie folk-infused introspection.

The self-titled opener, “heaven,” envelops you in a warm, comforting hug with the first gentle strains of acoustic guitar. Fingerpicked notes then drift in like a soothing daydream. When the vocals enter, it’s like listening to a secret shared in hushed, intimate tones. Newgren’s voice provides the perfect echo to amplify the raw vulnerability in Buenrostro’s. Together, they cast a spell and take you to a place of reassurance as they sing of hope, faith in something greater, and a connection so profound that it lifts your spirit. Repetition of the title and phrases like “I can see it, best believe it” reinforces this message, allowing the song’s promise to sink deep into your bones. Stripped-back instrumentation lets the painful yet mellifluous vocals shine, but every acoustic note and subtle addition of bassline feels expertly crafted. It’s cozy yet epic in capturing big emotions with a gentle touch.

The serenity is gently transitioned by “wolf,” as its soft synth notes lure you into an otherwordly,  uncertain space. This time, Buenrostro’s vocals are subdued yet haunting, drawing you towards the sadness in her words like “I swore I wouldn’t cry today.” As the song progresses, a subtle sense of unease creeps in with the addition of darker, echoing riffs underneath. When Buenrostro admits, “Crying on the telephone, every day that I’m alone,” it cuts right to the heart, made all the more poignant by the mournful synths accompanying it. While the music remains ethereal and pretty on the surface, Buenrostro’s performance bursts with pent-up anguish, just barely contained. “wolf” is a perfect representation of poetry in anguish. The metaphor of “This isn’t love, this is a wolf dressed up” is chillingly effective—it’s easy to imagine the silent suffering of someone trapped in a relationship where love has twisted into something ugly and predatory. 

As you’re still immersed in the emotional turmoil of “wolf,” Newgren guides you further into contemplation with “rabbit in the earth.” This track starts with gentle acoustic picking, setting a melancholic tone while Newgren’s pacifying vocals delve into fleeting love and shattered trust. Their soft tone belies deeper hurts, giving the song an almost wistful quality. The steady guitar lines provide a sense of calm throughout, belying the turmoil hinted at in lines like “You only ever loved me / On the last day of the month.” When the riffs suddenly swell in intensity near the halfway point, it’s like an aural representation of emotions bursting forth after being held back for so long, and Buenrostro’s voice comes in with an ambient, soothing aura, providing a feeling of comfort and support. As more layers of ominous electronic tones get added to the song, it builds up but never loses that mellow pace, giving the impression of starting to come to terms with disappointment or a breakup.

“venus – acoustic” then comes in, which feels like a soothing respite amid the whirlwind. The steady yet lively acoustic guitar initially pulls you in like a welcome friend, leading you on a cathartic stroll. While faster-paced than other tracks on the Heaven, it’s not the type of speed that induces headbanging. Instead, it establishes a grounded rhythm to anchor the soaring vocals. It’s proof you don’t need heavy instrumentation to make an impact—just vocals, guitar, and emotional resonance. When Buenrostro sings, “She puts my heart in my bladder,” with such raw pain, the guitar mirrors her agony through fingerpicking patterns that produce an unsettling feeling that is painful yet beautiful. The instrumentals continue to echo Buenrostro’s and Newgren’s exhaustion, and during their plea of “Please don’t let me go,” everything comes together in perfect synchronicity.

The hazy gloom seems to lift as the bright acoustic guitars of “online” pull listeners away from their reverie like a summer breeze. Buenrostro and Newgrenwarm slowly wove overhead as the steady strumming settles into a lazy rhythmic sway. Just when you think this indie folk number couldn’t get any lovelier, retro synths slip in to enhance the dreamlike atmosphere. It’s a song about the naivety of wanting to be someone you see present only a curated online facade, as highlighted in the heart-twinge-inducing line “I wanna be her.” We’ve all been guilty of glancing through rose-colored screens and forgetting there’s a richer reality beyond. The eerie synths that linger as silence falls seem to say much the same—that nothing online should be taken at face value. It’s the sort of track that could soundtrack a stroll through sun-dappled streets or murky late-night thoughts, peeling back layers of how we present ourselves to find deeper truths below.

Over five tracks, Buenrostro and Newgren guided a journey of hope, heartbreak, inner exploration, and rebirth through their exquisitely crafted blend of tender folk, indie textures, and soulful vocals. Each song offers a window into the duo’s poetic exploration of life’s deepest questions, whether about love, trust, or even the online world. While stripped back, the passion and musicianship imbue these tracks with an emotional resonance that will strongly move and touch your mind, heart, and soul. Heaven reaffirms that Soft and Dumb have become experts in portraying the messiness of the human condition with striking beauty.

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