Chicago indie rockers the Smith Westerns are to release new album Soft Will on the New York based Mom + Pop record label this month. This will be their third studio album since the release of self-titled album in 2009. Made up of brothers Cullen and Cameron Omori, Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich the group have proved on this release they are not just some teenage project but a band worthy of a great third album.
Opener “3am Spiritual” is a full of wistful lyrics and oohs and yeahs, “You don’t look like you used to be, you don’t look like you did on TV”, the catchy melody and piano/guitar solo add to the more poppy vibes. “Idol” gives a beach-y, summer feel to the album and is another infectious track by the Westerns.
Guitar in the song “Glossed” has a 1970s vintage edge, and the sweeping melodies and past-tense lead vocals bring in a nostalgic feel too; “Looked through the magazines at once, savored all I found, I can’t forget you”. Piano comes back on “XXIII” which is purely instrumental and full of emotion.
“White Oath” is the most jangly track on Soft Will, the pace slows down in the beginning before another guitar solo comes in – it’s an album with a heavy instrumental focus and with good reason, the instruments bring as much feeling as the pain filled lyrics; “ Couldn’t get anyone to listen, tried my best yet there’s something always missing, couldn’t get out of bed, laying there but never really sleeping, chain smoke the tears away”.
“Cheer Up” is like a reminder to the band themselves, after an album of songs about longing, like the theme of a love lost in “Best Friend” and forms of depression in “White Oath”. It’s also about a message for a lover; “Cheer up, baby, I don’t want you to hate me” repeats for the chorus.
The first single from the album and the final track, “Varsity” is an uplifting finish with a warm message; “ ‘cos I know it’s hard to be alone, count the days count the nights, but don’t give up”. It seems the Smith Westerns can sing from a varying number of viewpoints, and they’ve started to do so with a mature, grown-up edge and the music to match.
Reviewed by Heather Welsh.