Album Review: Smith Westerns, Soft Will

Although we may be suffering through an intensely cold Melbourne winter, over in America the release of the Smith Westerns’ third album, Soft Will, has been appropriately welcomed in all its summery glory.Throughout Soft Will, the Chicago four piece emulate iconic sounds of blissful summers and atmospheric indie pop. The album is a follow up to 2011’s ultra-success Dye It Blonde, which featured an array of simple and sweet tunes to fill long summer days.However, like many talented buzz bands who formed during indie’s peak years of 2007-2010, it was easy for the Smith Westerns to get lost in a seemingly endless parade of mindless indie pop groups who flourished on the vibes of wasted youth. Perhaps their influences of David Bowie, Oasis and 80’s alt-rock was what set them apart from the rest of the pack.Similar to other indie-surf pop bands like Best Coast, Girls and The Drums, the themes that Smith Westerns explore in Soft Will focus on the lack of direction in life and the inevitable heartbreak faced by twenty-somethings worldwide.Each track melts into another like an icy pole on a hot summer’s day. The naïve simplicity of the album’s opener, “3AM Spiritual”, evokes a feeling of being dizzyingly in love, but explodes in layered indie rock melodies towards the end, setting the tone for the remainder of the album. The melancholic undertones of instrumental “XXIII” induces the dread of childhood’s end and, in its most beautiful moments, sounds like a possible closing track to a Sofia Coppola film.The woozy dreaminess of “Fool Proof” is a definite standout on Soft Will. With its swishing strings and distorted guitar strumming, it’s sweet and laidback, but a more up-tempo and danceable song than the rest. On the tranquil track, “Best Friend”, lead singer Cullen Omori croons “You’re the one” over and over again as 70s-inspired layered guitar riffs play underneath.Soft Will’s first single, and most notable track, “Varsity” closes the album (on LPs without the bonus tracks), and exhibits some of the Smith Westerns’ most sunny and romantic sounds. Its dreamlike youthfulness evokes imagery of running down suburban streets as the sun sets on the horizon. The end of summer and perhaps the end of adolescence is represented, which may signal a change in the Smith Westerns’ mindset and possibly a more mature sound for whatever comes next.The Smith Westerns have reached a peak in their short career with Soft Will, the ultimate blissful and dreamy soundtrack to a summer that we can only dream of.by Jade Bate

July 5th 2013
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