I can’t help but think that the hot soft light of the title, which appears in the final line of the song emanating from a cross, is an image of salvation. “Hot Soft Light” seems to describe a particularly rough night in a Minneapolis/St. Paul drug user’s life – “it started in a vestibule/and ended in a hospital.”
As the song opens, he is being interrogated and denying his involvement in whatever went down. Its never exactly clear what exactly did go down, but the song is lengthy excuse covering his whereabouts that night. There’s a great line about addiction – “It started recreational/and ended kind of medical.” Yup, as somebody who lived with a heroin addict for a number of years, I can confirm that, when she started using, it was for fun, but by the end she was just using it to stay healthy. Addiction is a nightmare, man.
Anyhow, musically, this is one of the most compelling songs on the album. The shift from verse to chorus is especially compelling in my opinion.