Neither Tim Williams nor Matt Welsh are native Californians, but you wouldn’t guess that in a million years by listening to their debut album as Soft Swells. Even the band name evokes summertime carelessness, a la the Pacific Coast. While this lackadaisical sense of fun permeates every tune on the album, make no mistake: Williams and Welsh only make it look easy. What they’ve come up with on this album is a tight breed of rock-pop that is easy on the ears, but never too simplistic.
Perhaps only outsiders can experience California in this way. This certainly isn’t the first time that the state has served as a muse to wayward young men, and it undoubtedly won’t be the last, but our boys manage to hold their own amidst the scrum of West Coast-based bands trying to push their way into the indie limelight. Williams and Welsh craft ear-friendly tunes, with little filler and almost no fat.
The standout track is undoubtedly their lead single, “Every Little Thing”, a poppy, optimistic, and infectious number that promises good things to come. “Shake It Off” invokes a dance groove and the careless-but-controlled attitude that goes along with it. While Williams and Welsh are plenty savvy, both musically and in the way that they present themselves, their earnestness also seeps through, especially on tracks such as “Never Leave Home”. “You’ll never fall in love if you never leave home,” they plaintively warn, possibly giving one reason for their own cross-country trek. Every song on the album sounds different but ultimately familiar, like you’ve maybe heard it before in a friend’s car or at a hip clothing store. Welsh and Williams play off of what their intended audience already knows and then take it one step further, infusing their own showmanship into songs that sometimes sound as though they could be Band of Horses b-sides.
This is an album that’s meant to be played in a moving car, with the windows rolled down and the promise of warm weather ahead. Be forward-thinking and start making your summer playlist now—and put Soft Swells at the very top.
Essential Tracks: “Every Little Thing”, “Shake It Off”, and “Never Leave Home”