Smith Westerns

Soft Will

Mom & Pop

Jun 21, 2013 Issue #46 - June/July 2013 - Charli XCX Bookmark and Share


Back in April, Smith Westerns spoke to Pitchfork about what it felt like to return to Chicago after almost two years on the road. In just 24 months, friends moved away or moved on, graduated from college and pursued more traditional careers, while the members of Smith Westerns chose music instead. To some degree, everyone in his or her 20s deals with some permutation of this problem: how do you cope with change while "keeping it together?" And how can you be certain you're making the right changes in your life?

Every Smith Westerns album has been preoccupied with youth, but each has a slightly different take on the matter: snotty, bratty garage rock fills their self-titled debut; swooning "All the Young Dudes"-indebted self-consciousness characterizes 2011's excellent Dye It Blonde; and on Soft Will, the travails of being young pass through a lens that refracts them into something equal parts analytical and wistful.


Of course, a huge part of being young and eager to create your own story is immediately elevating everything that happens to you to mythic status—and on Soft Will, Smith Westerns demonstrate an incredible ability to Proust it up. Opener "3AM Spiritual" wields self-reflection like a knife ("It's easier to think you're dumb/Like you were/It's easier to think you're no fun/Who would know?"), exploding into a bridge, and a coda that are worthy of Abbey Road. That moment of gorgeous excess isn't an anomaly—everything on Soft Will is ringing, open, alive; there are croon-along choruses buoying every song. Producer Chris Coady takes the band's ability to wield major-minor shifts and breathes lavish life into it with the interplay between the synths and reverb-drenched guitar in "Fool Proof," and instrumental "XXIII" simultaneously recalls Suede and Elton John at their respective heights. Smith Westerns have a knack for capturing "drunk clarity"—the sound and feeling of being disoriented, retaining just enough wherewithal to wax philosophical about the moment, struggling to process and preserve it before it slips away. Album closer (and highlight) "Varsity" brings that feeling to life in full Technicolor with moments of clarity peeking through the haze, youth's simultaneous confidence and insecurity succinctly summarized: "I'm always there to win/Or it wasn't anything/Guess it's a point of view." (www.smithwesternsmusic.com)

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