Soft Will ticks all the boxes for an exhilarating summer album (that we can make do with for winter) and it also shows a subtler, sadder side to the band. Going soft suits them.

This Chicago trio evolved from garage to glam on their last two albums and now push forward to a more poppy and relaxed sound with a high-quality finish. Their third album encapsulates the best of Britpop, but also what came well before it (namely, The Beatles). And yet, despite its obvious influences, Smith Westerns once again come off sounding vital and refreshing.

 

Opener ‘3AM Spiritual’ is an obvious highlight, assuring us that while they may be older and wiser, they still have an earnest, youthful spring their step. “It’s easier to think you’re dumb / Like you were before,” reflects Smith Westerns vocalist Cullen Omori, before the band erupt into anthemic crooning of “Woah / Yeah” over chiming guitars – but it’s trumped by the shimmering closing track, ‘Varsity’. ‘Idol’ snatches the prize for the most show-stopping chorus, while the Air-like ‘XXIII’ rolls on from the fleeting ‘Glossed’ to great effect. After the radiant ‘Fool Proof’, there’s a slump into lesser work until ‘Varsity’, but this observation is more about the strength of the bulk of the material than anything else. 

 

4/5 stars

 

BY CHRIS GIRDLER

 

Soft Will is out now through POD / Inertia.

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