Soft Commands - Ken Stringfellow
Soft Commands Image
Metascore
75

Generally favorable reviews - based on 9 Critics What's this?

User Score
8.2

Universal acclaim- based on 6 Ratings

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  • Summary: This solo disc from the Posies member features guest appearances from Jill Sobule and members of Velocity Girl, Oranger and the Posies.
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 9
  2. Negative: 0 out of 9
  1. Transcendent and well-turned, Soft Commands is another exceptional recording from a talented, aware artist.
  2. What's most impressive is that he manages the delicate balance of being emotive without overwrought, something that many of the seventies pop icons never quite got right.
  3. 80
    Sounding like lost transmissions from classic '70s AM radio, it's Stringfellow's best yet. [Dec 2004, p.116]
  4. A batch of songs guaranteed to be huge hits as soon as we're all sucked into a giant time warp and plunked back down in 1974.
  5. Stringfellow has concocted a frustratingly obtuse record that's as beautiful and bold as it is shapeless and erratic.
  6. Soft pop isn't everyone's favorite genre, and there are those who will find Soft Commands too sweet for comfort Still, even at its most pop-friendly moments, there's enough muscle and intelligence here to keep the album from cloying.
  7. 60
    An occasionally rewarding but often confusing listen. [#64, p.108]

See all 9 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. Feb 11, 2012
    10
    Simply a masterpiece any way you look at (listen to) it. This is songwriting at it's best - pushing the boundaries of both pop music and art in general, yet thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. This album is one of the extremely rare cases where the music is intellectually and artistically ambitious and at the same time perfectly entertaining. I discovered this album by (happy) accident 7 years ago, and have since noticed that many people refer to it as a "lost classic", which is probably the best way to describe it in two words. It's like a great novel, or great collection of short stories, with the emotional power of music used to its full degree, by someone who is clearly one of the best songwriters of our times. I'm making the reference to literature here because I don't understand why this album isn't more known, and the only reason I have come up with is the same reason that "people don't read books anymore" as the saying goes, so I guess some people find anything with more than 3 basic chords and 1 basic hook too challenging - however, if you consider your intellectual ambitions being higher than those of a couch potato, you would probably enjoy this album more than you could possibly predict (I sure did). I was trying to present the case here for you to listen to the album and discover the music for yourself, as the actual combination of songs on it is way too big a topic for me to try and write about in 5000 characters or less. It's about so many things (life, love, politics etc) with the common thread being a genuine (and successful) attempt to describe those in the form of singer-songwriter pop music. The word "pop" is relevant here because this album is really not hard to understand or enjoy - like most classic novels aren't actually either - it just all takes slightly more brain power than listening to hook-based commercial pop, which I'm sure actually destroys brain cells... This is the "healthy" option that also tastes good, very rare in the area of art as it is in the area of food. So, if you haven't heard this album, sorry but you've been missing out - but better to find it out now than keep on missing out - forget about the "must-hear" bands of the week of NME/Pitchfork (which if you've noticed, keep changing week by week, in a completely illogical fashion), but this actually is a must-hear album and a must-hear artist. Expand
  2. Feb 11, 2012
    10
    Reading the mainstream reviews from traditional media, I can see where Ken's work is hard for some to appreciate. Neither a trend follower nor an instinctively commercial entity, he follows his own muse. Almost any reviewer will come to this record with expectation based on Ken's work with the Posies, and Ken will probably never get to truly achieve what he so obviously works hard at--establishing a pure, individual, and authentic voice that is above comparison with the current and past endeavors of his band and bandmates. However, anyone who takes time out to listen to this album in depth will be rewarded again and again with Stringfellow's ability to play with metaphor, his subtle humor, and his highly original chord voicings and arrangement ideas. It's a pity that the light rock of "You Drew" starts the album, as probably the best song that Stringfellow has ever written, "Any Love", follows, which is a much deeper, more stately expression of his considerable talent. Whereas I imagine most critics and many first time listeners might be baffled by his jumping from genre to genre, I simply see a versatile writer speaking to me in a number of different voices--always executed with skill and a great deal of soulfulness. Worth spending some time with--this is a complex and rich album, with many details that will reveal themselves further with each listen. Can't wait to hear what he does next. Expand
  3. Feb 11, 2012
    10
    Sometimes life hits you with with something that changes you forever.This Record did just that. As i found myself in times of trouble, all the songs here came to my like something that makes you go deeper and helps you get stronger, Really! The music the lyrics the vibes the sound.. It has everything as true genius. I always go back to this for answers, and the feeling of anything is possible.. And maybe not even the sky is the limit... Expand