Feature: S.J. Kardash Is Reborn in Softlung’s Raw, Honest, & Moody Debut Album ‘Second Chances’

Softlung © Nicole Romanoff
Softlung © Nicole Romanoff
Canadian singer/songwriter S.J. Kardash dives into the depths of his new band Softlung’s sonically and emotionally charged debut album ‘Second Chances,’ a fresh start and a fever dream all in one.
Stream: “Going Under With You” – Softlung




You shouldn’t be able to pluralize “second chance,” but I think we all do. And this project is me starting over again.

Stacey James Kardash has been around the block quite a few times – and the truth is, when you’ve been in the music industry for over 20 years like he has, you come to know a thing or two about second chances.

Since the early 2000s, the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer has played in a range of indie rock and alternative bands, from Junior Pantherz and The Blood Lines to Violent Kin and Reignwolf, with whom he toured the world alongside such legendary acts as The Who – and all before releasing their debut album.

Each of Kardash’s past bands is well worth the listen, and yet his latest project might very well be his best one yet. Introduced late last year, Softlung finds Kardash firmly at the helm, spilling his soul in a flurry of passion and vulnerability. Part-singer/songwriter and part-indie rock band all in one, Softlung’s music aches with raw emotion, vibrant energy, and visceral, unadulterated humanity – and nowhere is this more apparent than on the band’s recently-released debut album. A sonically and emotionally charged indie rock reckoning, Second Chances is a fresh start and a fever dream all in one: Honest lyricism and tender melodies come together in an intimate record borne out of introspection, insecurity, change, and acceptance.

Second Chances - Softlung
Second Chances – Softlung
Don’t wanna get out of line now
Follow the leader one at a time now
Wait your turn, take a number
Don’t wanna live my life in a slumber
Hey you, you wanna get paid
What about that money you saved
Take it back, take it away
Don’t wanna live my life that way
Please don’t drag me down with the crowd again
Pulled back from the edge safe and sound again
Please don’t drag me down when I’m going under
I’m going under with you
Under with you
Going under with you

Independently released May 10, 2023, Second Chances is an exhilarating and enchanting reintroduction S.J. Kardash, and the perfect debut for Softlung. Written, performed, recorded, and produced entirely by Kardash, Softlung is a labor of love and the product of free time, restless unchanneled energies, and emotions that needed to be let out into the world. What began as a personal outlet while Kardash was in-between projects (and trying to figure out what to do next) slowly became Kardash’s exciting new focus.

And we, the listeners, get to reap the benefits of that TLC.

Softlung © Nicole Romanoff
Softlung © Nicole Romanoff



“I released this record kind of by accident,” Kardash tells Atwood Magazine. “I happened to be without any bandmates for the first time in a while, and honestly I wrote all of these songs while I was contemplating what I would do next. I was thinking a lot about the past and future, mistakes, doubts, how to be better, and kind of digging into myself. I wasn’t veiling much because the process was just for me.”

“I only knew I was making something quite personal, and I was very much about following it where it led me. Once all the songs were written, it only felt right to see it through and record and play the parts myself. I suppose it was important to me that something which started in solitude be completed that way.”

Kardash describes Second Chances as a “raw, honest, and moody” album. Its title, he explains, both is and isn’t tongue-in-cheek. “You shouldn’t be able to pluralize ‘Second Chance,’ but I think we all do,” he says. “And this project is me starting over again.”

“I see this as the right introduction to the project. The album lives in its own world – it’s the right amount of scrappiness for the moment. It’s a pretty diverse group of songs, but somehow I think they all fit together. Now I’m looking forward to seeing what happens on the next record. Hint: I’ve been jamming some new songs with a band…

Softlung © Nicole Romanoff
Softlung © Nicole Romanoff



Second Chances hits hard and leaves a lasting mark. The album’s titular opening track sets the tone: As catchy as it is cathartic, “Second Chances” is a spirited “celebration of mistakes,” as Kardash puts it – one that comes to life through radiant, soaring vocals, driving drums, charismatic guitars, and emotionally potent lyrics:

You believe nothing is a lie
If you keep it bottled inside
Dirty secrets come out in time
Vile behavior… vile behavior
Take advantage of a nice guy
Burning bridges one at a time
Second chances, I’ve had mine
Second chances, for the tenth time
One thing I hesitate to mention
You need some kind of intervention
Yeah you want it, but you don’t
And you had it, now you don’t

“It kind of sets up the overall theme of the record,” Kardash notes. “I decided to keep the stick count, and the coffee sip from when I recorded the vocals, because it just felt like getting ready for the album. Come to think of it, I don’t think you’re supposed to drink coffee when singing!”




Thus begins Kardash’s most intimate, vulnerable, and personal record. Highlights include the invigorating, achingly intimate “The Other Side,” the dynamic “Don’t Say No,” the emotive “Slow Down Girl,” the smoldering, grungy closer “Wicked Days,” and the passion-fueled, heart-on-sleeve “Going Under With You.”

“I actually think ‘That’s Not Really Love’ might be my favourite song I’ve personally ever written, at least to me,” Kardash reflects. The record’s fifth track, “That’s Not Really Love” is a visceral, melodic ballad reminiscent of such artists as John Lennon, Jeff Tweedy, and Elliott Smith. “I really like the feel and sound of the recording and simplicity of the production. It also might reveal some of my biggest influences.”

Could you open up your mind to me?
Show me innocence behind your eyes
Is it easier to lie to me?
Raise a crooked smile and say…
Darling, nothing ever comes easy
You try so hard to please me
Don’t do that to yourself
Lately, I know I’ve been acting shady
Don’t want someone to save me
Don’t do that to yourself
It’s all come undone, because
That’s not really love…


As for lyrical highlights, “the first line that jumps into my head is ‘second chances for the tenth time‘ because it really sums up the whole record,” Kardash adds. “I also like the lyrics in ‘Going Under With You’ because I can feel myself standing in the queue with everyone else on the planet.”

I had a dream we were in the forest
We cut it down like everyone before us
All the animals were finally free
Then they all started laughing at me (they said)
Please don’t drag me down with the crowd again
Pulled back from the edge safe and sound again
Please don’t drag me down when I’m going under
I’m going under with you…




Softlung’s journey is only just beginning, but with this new name and new record, S.J. Kardash has undeniably delivered a piece of himself that we’ve never truly seen before – and it sounds as incredible to listeners as it feels for him, as an artist.

Yes, he’s had a few second chances in life, but Softlung may be the last second chance he ever needs.

“Sometimes I try to imagine people listening to it and wonder what they might think,” Kardash shares. “I’m sure certain songs will resonate more with different people. But honestly I would feel fulfilled even if a few people decide to live with the album for a while. Now that it’s out, it feels really good to have a bit of weight off. It’s a lot of build up to releasing anything, even just mentally, so going forward I’d like to hope that part will get easier. I’m excited to grow into the next one.”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Softlung’s Second Chances with Atwood Magazine as S.J. Kardash goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his debut album!

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:: stream/purchase Softlung here ::
Stream: ‘Second Chances’ – Softlung



:: Inside Second Chances ::

Second Chances - Softlung

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Second Chances

I chose “Second Chances” to be the title track and opener of the album because it feels like a celebration of mistakes, and kind of sets up the overall theme of the record. I decided to keep the stick count, and the coffee sip from when I recorded the vocals, because it just felt like getting ready for the album. Come to think of it, I don’t think you’re supposed to drink coffee when singing…



Going Under With You

I wrote the song about breaking away from routine and the usual path which leads us there. It’s so easy to get stuck in the same loop and not even realize it, and then you look around and see you’re in the same line with everybody else. It might feel like the crowd is a safe place, but it can also bring you down, and sometimes you need to step out on your own.



Don’t Say No

You know the movie Yes Man? Kinda like that, but instead of yes, it’s maybe. It’s like not committing to anything, but also not shutting anything down completely. Unfortunately, sometimes when you keep all the options open, all the good things just pass you by instead. Sorry, I can’t believe I just referenced Yes Man.



Slow Down Girl

I wanted the verses of the song to feel like a trancelike state. I was thinking about how sometimes we work so hard just to be able to live. That’s time we can never have back, and while we’re keeping ourselves distracted, we also can forget what’s really important.



That’s Not Really Love

I don’t know why, but we all stay in situations we know aren’t good for us. And even when we decide to start over, we often end up in the same place again. I know my own situations, but I was also imagining what might be going on in someone else’s head.



Worry

Originally I just liked strumming the two chords of the song, and it put me in a bit of a blurred eye daze. Naturally I started to overthink and worry about everything. Thus, the song was born.



The Other Side

I’ve realized I’ve made a lot of the same mistakes again and again. This song is about always getting just halfway there, and then tearing it all down and ending up back at the start again. I wanted the chord progression and beat to stay the same the whole time to give the feeling of walking in a circle.



Wicked Days

I wrote Wicked Days about leaving the past behind, maybe settling down a bit, taking a breath, and following the path where it leads you. As the closer for the album, I left the recording a bit unfinished to leave things open for a sequel.

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:: stream/purchase Softlung here ::



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Second Chances - Softlung

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