When Smith Westerns released their self-titled album in 2009, the band’s members — brothers Cullen and Cameron Omori and their friend Max Kakacek — were still in high school. The success of their sophomore effort, 2011’s Dye It Blonde, allowed the band to devote themselves entirely to music and go on tour. Within eight months, the trio played nearly 150 shows across the globe, joining MGMT, Wilco, and Yeasayer on the road and performing at festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo.
So it’s not surprising that on its third album, Soft Will, the band seems to be in a more reflective mood. Smith Westerns’ Seventies-inspired glam rock is still very present, albeit more polished, but there’s also the wistfulness of lost youth lingering beneath the album’s shimmering, dreamy pop songs. As a result, the band’s nostalgia feels more genuine and less like an attempt to emulate a sound from another decade — like it’s emerged from the confusion that accompanies growing up and the decisions twentysomethings are forced to make, whether they’re aware that they’re even being made. Contemplating old friends and perhaps themselves on the album’s opener, “3am Spiritual,” Omori sings, You don’t look like you used to be.
The raw, upbeat jangle that characterized much of the band’s previous albums has all but been abandoned, replaced by lush melodies and catchier hooks. Fans of the band’s formerly lo-fi style might need a minute to adjust, and while the themes are heavier, the summer sound of Soft Will arrives right on time. (Mom & Pop)