Last we heard from Maine-via-NYC band Coke Weed was on last years Nice Dream, an inviting but conflicted sophomore full-length that teetered somewhat unconfidently between sprawls and concision, folk and psychedelia. But on the bands third album, Back to Soft, they sound like theyve had enough of the stress that comes with any band trying to find their sound. Relaxed and patient as ever now, Coke Weed have returned with, in the simplest of definitions, an awesome guitar rock record.
The Velvet Underground are an obvious first point of reference on Back to Soft an influence that songwriter Milan McAlevey has confirmed and thats a good thing. Sunseeker opens the album on a near-identical replica of the groove that anchors The Velvets Sister Ray, and Anklet borrows the sighing Sterling Morrison guitar line from Pale Blue Eyes. But its more than mere pastiche, wisely. Back to Soft combines the familiar aura of the Velvets with the lackadaisical, lo-fi aesthetic of Pavement and snail-in-heat-slow tempos a la Low for its loose but constantly locked-in feel. Its a comfortingly straightforward listen, also thanks in no small part to lead singer Nina Donghias gorgeously laid-back vocals.
With 10 tracks of standard pop song length, Back to Soft is deliberately lean, and it complements the albums simplified vision perfectly. The songwriting on the second half isnt quite as strong as its counterpart, save for the standout closer Manchester, a last-second turn towards country. But through all 40 minutes of foggy guitar texture, its apparent with Back to Soft that Coke Weed are best at taking it easy.
Essential Tracks: Anklet, Desert Sleeper, and Manchester