Chicago’s Smith Westerns progressed from the ultra lo-fi Smith Westerns to the slick glam rock of Dye It Blonde. Returning with their third LP, Soft Will, Smith Westerns take a sun-drenched perspective on garage rock and make it entirely their own.
Unlike Dye It Blonde, Soft Will is not packed full of huge choruses. This isn’t to say that it is difficult to get into, because it is not; it still has its fair share of hooks. However, the hooks are focused around intricate guitar lines and vocal melodies, rather than brash guitar riffs or bold lyrical statements.
Soft Will has a much more relaxed feel than its predecessors, welcoming a sound in a similar vein to Real Estate or Beach Fossils. This is music to listen to on a warm summer’s day, making the June release date all the more appropriate.
One of the most striking things about the album is the sheer number of sonic layers. As well as the band’s standard instrumentation, they have added layers of strings and acoustic guitars, making a very rich sound that provides the listener with something new on every listen. This is most noticeable with album closer, and possibly best song, ‘Varsity’, with its neat string arrangements and understated drums.
Album opener, ‘3AM Spiritual’, is typical Smith Westerns, wistfully discussing misspent youths and self-deprecation. ‘Idol’ almost has the feel of a Beach House song, it is that laidback, whilst perhaps discussing the lack of a role model during their aforementioned youth.
‘Fool Proof’ is the only song on the album that sounds noticeably different, and it is all the better for it. At times, it sounds remarkably similar to Echo & The Bunnymen’s ‘The Killing Moon’, with its rumbling bassline and thoughtful chorus.
Soft Will is not a huge step away from the standard Smith Westerns template, but it is a big enough step for it to be potentially their best album yet. Whether you agree or not, it is certainly their most mature and reflects their growth as musicians, both in talent and ideas.
…Alex is listening to Sigur Ros – Kveikur…