Smith Westwerns on Their Road to Adolescence

When Smith Westerns released Varsity, a single out of their new album Soft Will, we were instantly reminded of those long summer high school nights spent cramming up our room, whining on how life sucks, while our friends were out there having fun—dancing away at some cool party or trying out a new kind of extreme sport. With the whirring 80s synths and 90s guitar-pop, Varsity sounds a little sad, depressing, and mellow, but not in a way that it would make your whole body shiver at how dark it sounds—because it’s not dark at all. It’s just, well, a little bit moody.

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What we didn’t expect was to find that the sad anthem vibe doesn’t only resonate in Varsity alone. It’s a constant existence throughout the whole album. Soft Will still has the 60s—70s influence speckled on each track, showing that while Smith Westerns have grown throughout the years, they still haven’t fully forgotten their original roots. But unlike the band’s last album, Dye It Blonde (2011), Soft Will doesn’t have huge choruses.

The first track, 3am Spiritual,  is a massive summer-poised sing-a-long number; lazy and laidback with a breeze of warm air, what with the flickers of guitar and airy bass. The next track, Idol, has spacey melody and feels a little like a Beach House song. Glossed gives a nod to the past by channeling some 60′s feel with a taste dream-pop and psych-laced slide guitars. It seems like Smith Westerns are now trying to lean onto a more contemporary sound than sticking to the sounds of yesteryear. While you might frown at the rather—ahem—dull title, the eight track, Best Friend, is sun-drenched and stretches out vocalist Cullen Omori’s vocals and enamors you with the harmony.

Soft Will sees Smith Westerns maturing in terms of style and production. But it’s lacking some weight in it. Smith Westerns seem to have gotten lost in this teen-dreamatorium; they didn’t didn’t bring much in the way of rhythmic drive to the proceedings—leaving the mellow vibe alone, not giving it any twist. It’s something that will make you feel like you’re being taken to somewhere more peculiar than a common beach, but you actually are not going anywhere. By the time you realize it, you’ll be a little bummed, but at least the view is pretty.