Smith Westerns Get Better With Age
My, Smith Westerns, how you’ve grown. Adult instrumentals usher in a quarter-life crisis for the Chicago indie rockers, whose tender third album is the realistic comedown to previous album Dye It Blonde‘s youthful ebullience. Soft Will is what happens when a band focuses so strongly on their music and touring that the life events happening around them only furthers their sonic vehicle. Whether it’s reconnecting with old friends or noticing the shifts that success has brought, the brunt of Soft Will is spent quelling those anxieties through introspective lyrics and almost ethereal production. Opening track “3AM Spiritual” is a nostalgic lullaby with the insomnia groove of the Pixies’ “Havalina” and frontman Cullen Omori’s unmistakeable croon.
Moony laments looking back function as major markers of how Smith Westerns are moving forward with their sound and aesthetic. The instrumental “XXIII” does all the talking it needs with the help of a slow-burn guitar and howling organs punctuating a percussive piano and backing beat so melancholy, its very tempo is a deliberate act of perseverance. “Best Friend” is just as soaring as “3AM Spiritual”. Swap a long-forgotten love with a long-forgotten friend and you’ve got the gist of Smith Westerns’ current gospel. One has to wonder whether Smith Westerns wrote this entire album through sleepless fits of late-night inspiration and a potential lack of Ambien.
“Cheer Up” easily cements itself as Soft Will‘s most confessional, yet affirmative, track. Its guitar arpeggios dance effortlessly with the syncopated driving force of drummer Julien Ehrlich’s percussion. Closing track “Varsity” may be the most poppy ditty off the ten-track LP. “Varsity” echoes peers Born Ruffians with its layered vocals and early MGMT with its synth punctuations. Smith Westerns have never been shy about their influences and Soft Will only adds to their unique blend of brit pop fervor and T. Rex style. Though the band may be feeling the effects of a fast maturation, Soft Will is devoid of any growing pains; ultimately a clean, thoughtful album.