When Polly Mackey – AKA Art School Girlfriend – released her first album Is It Light Where You Are in 2021, what was a shimmering debut felt to her more like a sublime denouement.
The Welsh producer and multi-instrumentalist’s record revelled in expansive dreamscape sounds and diaristic writing that stretched deep into the emotional peripheries of a then very recent heartbreak. A protracted two years later, Polly was able to tour the record – then, embarking on a new relationship, and reconsidering her creative mode. While the album garnered critical celebration for its visceral aural textures and lucid themes, for Polly, it was inflected with alienation. “By the time it was out in the world, I felt unattached to it,” she shares. “This new record truly feels like my debut.”
Soft Landing is the culmination of Art School Girlfriend’s contemporary artistic testament. It represents a tonal shift and tenure in a much more contented and philosophical state of being. The title presented itself to her through the frequency illusion: a turn of phrase thrown up in overheard conversation, and mentioned on the news. “‘Soft landing’ showed up to strike me when things were falling into place,” Polly says. “I was at that typical moment where you’re leaving your 20s and realising you don’t have to work toward this concept of future happiness. Going to the pub with your mates can be the ultimate. Lying beside the person you love, watching the sun come in, can be it.”
This album percolates in these “small euphorias”; elations of life you don’t have to reach far for. “It captures what a lot of people coming out of COVID have felt, looking for joy closer to home, in your immediate surroundings,” Polly says. “I am much more interested in capturing a time and feeling, than getting it perfectly right.”