After the band’s 2009 debut dazed listeners like a freckled homecoming queen, it was pretty evident that the high schoolers-turned-college power poppers would forge destructive guitar songs. It’s just no one thought they’d take things into Wish You Were Here territory. On their latest, Soft Will, the Chicago three-piece detach themselves from warbled out psych takes for glossy melodrama, where guitar tones still get stoned amidst self-examination, loner moments and unapologetic chain smoking. On one end, the record signifies maturity and the band dragging every heartstring they can find, but on another, it’s them piecing together sharpened rhythms at an ungodly rate.
Early on, “3am Spiritual”, “Idol” and “Glossed” exemplify loveable chords-synth abuse back to back, and as Soft Will floats on into its B-side, it quickly pounds back a few jam tracks that slap together slightly progressive Britpop and head-melting melodies. “White Oath” and “Only Natural” flower with such a backbone but it’s hard to compare them to “XXIII”, the disc’s only instrumental number that brews like the kind of sunsets you see at Volterra. The album will always carry a complex core – going from glam to visceral in a heartbeat – and for Smith Westerns, that’s a positive thing. Soft Will is lipstick-stained literature wrapped in a gorgeous group dynamic that doesn’t offer a safe word.
Listen: “Only Natural”, “XXIII”, “Glossed”, “3am Spiritual” || Watch: “Varsity”