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City Air

by The Soft Close-Ups

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City Air 02:59
In your basement, there's a family tree and it's getting out of hand. It shows no siblings. It tracks no matriarchs. It charts your five-point life plan. You say you're done with the money and you just want more free time. But you know you don't want the worry of a life lived on the line. In the future, there's an answer. In peripheral vision it unfurls. But then it's gone again, and there you go again, making hay while getting sunburn. You say you're done with the city and you just want some fresh air. But you'll never move to the country cos there's simply nothing there, so you head to the suburbs and keep complaining daily. She won't last forever. There'll soon be another. She gets younger every year. You wake up too early for a Saturday morning and your head feels strangely clear. In your wildest dreams, there's a family tree and it's getting out of hand. You say you're done with the money and you just want more free time. But you know you don't want the worry of a life lived on the line, so just keep it as a hobby, and stop complaining daily, or move to the suburbs, and complain as much as you like.
Don’t kiss the way that I don't to spare you the sight, please. Or you’ll see you’ll get what’s coming to your head, your hips, your knees. Don’t say you’re going to hurt me if you won’t really hurt me. I’m just being realistic. This is how you live when this is what you are. Don’t kiss the lips of me on the streets where we live now or you’ll see you’ll get what’s coming: a never ending longing for more. Do something altruistic instead of all this artist schtick. You’re getting your own way again but this is where you live so this is what you are. When would it be wrong? When I wrote it down or spoke of it aloud? And does it depend who’s watching me? These acts are so infantile.
So thinking's not doing and actions speak loudly. Still I can't act on unlikely ideals. Like far too much sugar in watery coffee, your presence a comfort not something to scream of. Well you know I was very low. Oh Angela, you've been good for a while; now try being awful. Didn't get you far, being kind sometimes goes unrewarded. You set down hot water with quite too much vigour, adjusting your hair when there's no one to please. Like getting a dog to wade into a river, I'm easily dragged into awkward scenes. Well you know I was very low. Oh Angela, you've been good for a while; now try being awfully nice cos there's something you should know. I meant to tell you sooner. But as every day dragged on, it got no easier.
Birthmark 02:11
Sweet and ascending life, how I will miss you when you go away and clear my name. But dearly departed life, I won’t be there to see it when you stub your toe and curse my name. So let’s not fear the birthmark that’s all across your face. Let’s not fear the dark; it’s getting us nowhere. You see, I know no sympatico. I barely ken how to spell it, though I know I used to have it down when I was a latch-key kid , with grazed-up knees and the names of trees all tattooed down my sleeves . The cells may change but the appendix scar remains. And the last ten years? You’re gonna wish you’d never asked. You see, I’ve been working my front dry, and now I wonder why.
Morning, snowbird. I know you're hurt. Can't seem to wrest yourself from sleep. Cling to the pillow much too deeply. Is it true what they say? It's not what you've done. It's what you've omitted that will sting. Curtain edges let in small salvage. Till then there's nothing to be thought but how, where and when you’ll go.
Waiting for a break in the blinding glare. The band is so loud as to trap you there with just your thoughts: running away from here; doing the same work on the mainland. Why would anyone choose that life over you, when nobody loves him like you do? Nobody loves him like that. He’ll move from A to B and find himself staring at some other territory’s periphery when all of them lack something. Walking all over you, doing the damage with kindness. Why would anyone choose something over you, when nobody loves you like I do? Nobody loves you like that. Keep both your hands behind the cutting edge.
I can’t spin a line. I’ve got a hopeless poker face. You spot the lie a mile off. You laugh at me. I lose my place. I love the way you keep me guessing. Looks like I’ll never learn my lesson. I buy it every time, another hocus pocus line. I take a five-mile detour. You know full well I don’t live round here. Those tell-tale signs can do their worst. I’ll stay naïve and better off.
Eiscafe 02:43
Inroads 03:00
It starts out well. Certain people tell and you think it's true. These small things accrue. So much hope. Give them enough rope and no one denies. Just fiction not lies. And I was glad to be with friends as one more chance conspired to fade. No one complains. Aspiration is loneliness dolled up and shoved out in the world: no help at all. You wish you'd made a mark. Well, look: make all the inroads you like, there's still no respite.


City Air – Coming home from seeing The Tears play at The Astoria in London, February 2005, I was trying to remember how ‘The Lovers’ went and I came up with this on the guitar. I knew it was special and hung onto it for ages waiting for the right person to write the lyrics and vocal melody. I love Danny Gold’s two synth notes that herald the second chorus.

The Way I Don’t Kiss – I had written this on guitar and then recorded a synthy demo which became the blueprint for the version we did on ‘In Retrospect’. On a whim, we tried it out during a rehearsal for the Birthmark and Mainland sessions with Laurence Owen on bass and Grant Purser on drums. It went so well we knew we had to record it as a full band. The recording is Eric Donohue on bass and Patrick Ahern on drums, basics done in one take at the Boston sessions. The little major key funk riff with the sliding octaves during the last time through the second verse is perhaps my favourite thing I’ve ever put on record.

Awkward Scenes – The demo was entitled FaB Shadows, which was (very) short for ‘F minor and B flat minor’ and the music being darker than my usual songs. When we had the offer to make the album, I would go to rehearsal rooms during the day to get out of the flat and focus on writing. This one was polished off alone with an acoustic at Strummer Studios in Holloway one afternoon. Again, the basics were done in Boston in one take. Really was an amazing feeling.

Your Likely Years – A guitar figure in E flat that I really love. The demo was called ‘Cinnamon Shoppes’ after the Bruno Schulz short story. The first of the acoustic songs we recorded at David’s.

Birthmark – Re-recorded and differing quite a bit from the ‘In Retropsect’ version. On checking the relevant email now, it seems I may have misread a comment by Ryan Labato from the I Am The Programmer podcast that led me to believe the song could use a lot more melody. Anyway here it is. Recording all those extra guitar parts with Simon Nelson was a blast, he’s always up for sonic experiments (as is Danny Gold, who helmed the Boston sessions).

Small Salvage – Another rare minor outing for me. Danny Gold’s low synth strings always make me pause and smile at how expansive it gets there. This was the last song done at the Boston full band sessions and I, being tired, thought I was just going to add my guitar again later. When I announced this, there were shouts from the control room ‘No, no, the guitar is sounding great, you need to nail it now!’

On The Mainland – One of my favourite pieces of music I’ve ever written. April 2011, I was waiting for my companion to come to my flat before the Stay Beautiful reunion and this came out.

Losing My Place – Holds a special place in my heart as it was the first song written for the album. I had sent David some initial demos and I fondly remember him telling me about it at Brumfields (live drummer Steve Brummell’s annual birthday party in Highgate Wood). Brumfields 2006 was actually where I first met David. Having been a huge Luxembourg fan, I slowly met them all that year. I’d met Steve a few weeks before (at Zed One rehearsal space, H Bird were on their way out and Steve on his way in), he told me I ‘must come to Brumfields this year’. Also met Sina there too, who has supplied all the Close-Ups artwork.

Eiscafe – Another of my favourite ever pieces of music I’ve written. Every time I listen to it I’m so thankful this came through my fingers. With Suede’s ‘The Wild Ones’ in mind, Simon suggested recording this with the studio windows open.

Inroads – And again. I think this is just lovely. Something very English about it. David Barnett thinks it is Beatles-y. I’m put in mind of David Devant & His Spirit Wife, particularly its descending chromatic figure reminds me of the way ‘Groover’ ascends.

Liner notes by Aug Stone


released March 3, 2014

All songs written by David Shah & Aug Stone
© The Soft Close-Ups, 2014
Lyrics on tracks 4, 9 adapted from A.E. Housman

Voice & piano - David Shah
Guitars - Aug Stone
Synths - Aug Stone & Danny Gold
Bass (tracks 1, 2, 3, 6) - Eric Donohue
Drums (tracks 1, 2, 3, 6) - Patrick Ahern
Bass (tracks 5, 7) - Laurence Owen
Drums (tracks 5, 7) - Grant Purser

Tracks 1, 2, 3, 6 produced by Danny Gold & The Soft Close-Ups

Tracks 4, 8, 10 produced by The Soft Close-Ups

Tracks 5, 7, 9 produced by Simon Nelson & The Soft Close-Ups at Studio Klank www.studioklank.co.uk

Album mastered by New Alliance East www.newallianceeast.com

Cover art by Sina Shamsavari


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London art-pop duo-turned-band.

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