Although Sallie Ford will always be the perennially cool girl, she is unafraid to make art that confronts all of her own deeply personal hardships and struggles. Her new record Soul Sick is filled with all the kinds of uncomfortable, unflattering parts of being a human. Breakups, depression, anxiety and insecurities all haunt Ford, and her songwriting captures every moment from the all-consuming to the “f*** it.”
Soul Sick keeps with Ford’s signature retro garage rock sound and her wild, untamed vocals, but it also may be her most punk rock record yet. With The Sound Outside, Ford was often coined a rockabilly artist, but beginning with 2014’s Slap Back and now Soul Sick, her sound has evolved naturally. She has an effortlessly sultry singing voice, but she’s more interested in shouting out than she is in slinky oozing, and we’re luckier for it. In particular, “Loneliness is Power” is a punk rock take on spending time alone and letting go of inhibitions. “I know that it’s not good for me/But makes me want it more,” she sings. It’s the coolest ode to being anti-social and mildly self-destructive you’ll hear this year.
In her songwriting, Ford is grappling with millennial anxiety without getting wrapped up in clichés that often bog it down. Her honest, no-frills lyrics are (sometimes painfully) relatable and unapologetically raw. “Never Gonna Please” finds the frustration is trying to be too many things to too many people to a vaguely surf-rock guitar riff. “Middle Child” finds the sort of sad comedy in not feeling seen or heard, never being first or last. There’s a middle child purgatory which Ford taps into and inhabits perfectly. And “Record On Repeat” finds Ford hitting rock bottom darkness. On this record-opening beauty she sings, “I’m not talkin’ about drinking/I’m not talkin’ about doing drugs/I’m talkin’ about that feeling when you feel like giving up.” And she is all of us when she finishes, “Screw it/I’m a grump/Screw it/Maybe I should give up.” We’ve been there, Sallie. We feel you.