Premiere: Society of Broken Souls’ “Pretty” Is a Dark, Beautiful Commentary

Society of Broken Souls © Liz Brown
A dark, folk noir commentary on the emotional and psychological impacts of society’s expectations for women, “Pretty” is a haunting and powerful lullabye.

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I only like pretty things,” sings Society of Broken Souls’ Lauryn Shapter in the duo’s new song. A dark, folk noir commentary on the emotional and psychological impacts of society’s expectations for women, “Pretty” is a haunting and powerful lullabye.

I only like pretty things
Pretty flowers on postcards
Pretty sparrows who sing
Pretty songs of love and harmony
Yeah, I only like pretty things
“Pretty” – Society of Broken Souls

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Pretty,” off Society of Broken Souls’ forthcoming sophomore album Midnight and the Pale (independently out April 13, 2018). The songwriting duo of multi-instrumentalists Dennis James and Lauryn Shapter, Society of Broken Souls have given their music the enchanting “folk noir” genre title, and indeed their particular acoustc/Americana/roots fusion is inimitably sharp; its edge just might cut you if you’re not too careful.

It is this willingness to explore the utter depths of their subjects that propels “Pretty” to such great heights. On the surface a sweet, humble folk song, the track finds Lauryn Shapter’s intimate vocals supported by a steady acoustic rhythm guitar, a sweet melody-making electric lead guitar, and some light, lilting chimes. At a passing glance, the song is as innocent as can be.

In fact, “Pretty” laments the loss of such innocence; it’s the antithesis of the simple happy-go-lucky song it pretends to be.

Midnight and the Pale - Society of Broken Souls

Midnight and the Pale – Society of Broken Souls

My father, he liked pretty girls
And my mother was a pretty girl
Who knew her place in the world
They told me that
everything would be fine

If I would only be a pretty girl

“Like so many of my songs, “Pretty” started out with one idea in mind but quickly went in another direction,” Shapter tells Atwood Magazine. “At first, it was a bit of a reaction to two things: the disproportionate value our culture places on womens’ appearance and the importance of form over substance in so many areas, but particularly in the music industry. I carry around a little notebook with me, and one day I wrote in it, “I only like pretty things.” The song was born from that phrase. Once I got going with it, though, it became an exploration of a loss of innocence and delving into what happens when girls are given the message to be one-dimensional.”

In essence, not only do Society of Broken Souls address the problematic values in our culture; they explore the effects of those values on the individual, diving well past the surface of these topics in a scathing, but justifiable attack on perceptions of beauty and class. Everything from etiquette and manners, to the affectations we display publicly is fair game as Society of Broken Souls attack our world for its standards: If you don’t look a certain way, talk a certain way, walk a certain way….

Well, you’re not pretty; are you?

It’s hard not to think about The Stepford Wives as Shapter sings all the things pretty girls will and won’t do in with passion-fueled, yet distanced expression:

‘Cause pretty girls don’t yell
And pretty girls don’t cry
And pretty girls know how to be
The apple of your eye
And pretty girls don’t bleed
Pretty girls don’t try
And pretty girls don’t watch
The world pass them by
Society of Broken Souls © Liz Brown

Society of Broken Souls © Liz Brown

“Recording this song was an exercise in creative restraint,” Dennis James recalls. “We wanted to communicate the weight of the lyrics but we had to do so without letting the musical ideas detract from content. There’s an innocence that prevails within this song, but it lies at the edge of a disturbing madness. It was important to reinforce this without going overboard and I love how it turned out.” “Pretty” forces us to pay close attention to Society of Broken Souls: There’s no escaping its message, nor its marvelous melody. The two (music and lyrics) work in tandem to create a subtle, but dynamic moment of self-empowerment that rises us out of the trash values propogated by pop culture.

Of the deeper elements within “Pretty,” Shapter reflects: “It’s my firm belief that when we hear people’s individual stories, the walls separating us come down, judgment slips away, and we become more compassionate. “Pretty” is not autobiographical, but the first time I sang it for Dennis I could barely get through it. And maybe in some ways it is biographical, in that I was never very good at being a docile, quiet, pretty girl; I was always a little too loud and so I guess I can relate to the character in the song. I think songs can be very powerful tools for stripping away facades, and this song definitely doesn’t let the listener hide from some difficult realities.”

“Pretty” is truly beautiful, and we have Society of Broken Souls to thank for that. The duo’s new album Midnight and the Pale is out next Friday, April 13, 2018; pre-order it and connect with the band below!

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Midnight and the Pale - Society of Broken Souls

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Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com