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Ears & Fingers 7/11/13

by Jason Leger

Smith Westerns – ‘Soft Will’
“It’s easier to think you’re dumb.” Last week, I was locked in a great conversation, when something escaped, first from my brain, then from my mouth, which I didn’t expect. Out of nowhere, I said, “Youth really is wasted on the young.” Almost immediately, two things passed through my mind:  I just made a blanket statement, which I normally get fired up about when other people do, and I had in that moment become my grandpa. The fact that I made this statement came to mind again over the past few days as I have been perusing Smith Westerns’ new album, “Soft Will.” The band was formed in 2007, while the members were still in high school, and with the release of “Soft Will,” they have now released three albums in six years. Being able to turn heads early on, Smith Westerns have already found themselves fortunate enough to tour the US and Europe a few times, supporting the likes of MGMT, Passion Pit and indie rock royalty Belle & Sebastian. I was lucky enough to catch them supporting Wilco a while back in Mobile, and they more than lived up to any hype they had received. I say all of this to make the point that these guys are making me eat my words. Youth is not being wasted on these young men. They are making necessary, controlled, mature music, and capturing the attention of whoever is willing to give them the time of day. “Soft Will” is only going to further Smith Westerns’ already impressive track record by building on where they have already come from. Dreamy, introspective, and covered in more of a gloss than previous efforts, “Soft Will” plays out as a documented maturation that still, almost magically, fully maintains youth and playfulness. Album highlights are opener “3am Spiritual,” jangly ode “Best Friend,” and album closer and lead single “Varsity.” One surefire way to not waste something is to share it, we should be grateful that Smith Westerns are willing to share their youth with all of us. “Soft Will” is out now via Mom & Pop Records/Warner Bros.

Palms – ‘Palms’
If one were to take one part Deftones, one part Team Sleep, one part †††, and three parts Isis, and throw this mixture together, the result would without a doubt be a hazy, dissonant, long winded blend of controlled chaos and slow burning wonder. Enter Palms. Chino Moreno from Deftones, Team Sleep, and ††† has a very recognizable voice and singing style. On a whim, he can fly from a hissed whisper to a cringe inducing scream to a high range belt, with seemingly effortless ease. He is also quite the chameleon, being able to fit into a bevy of musical styles and writing songs, which seem to remain on the cusp of relevance. Isis was a well-loved post-metal act who decided to call it quits in 2010. Three of the members affirmed that they wanted to keep writing music together. Moreno, who always seems to have an eye out for projects, proclaimed his love for the dearly departed Isis, and partnered with the three. Thus, Palms was born. Obviously, when the band initially formed in 2011, Chino had other obligations that came about, first to Deftones, and then to †††, which put Palms on the backburner for a while. However, Palms have now finally released their debut LP, “Palms,” and after just one listen, I can safely proclaim that the wait has been worthwhile. Though only six songs long, this album checks in at nearly 47 minutes, which is something to be expected with three-fifths of Isis churning out compositions. Every song on the album is innately visceral, taking the listener on a hazy, lush journey through what could be miles of nothing. If there ever was an album to walk through the desert to, this is it. I highly recommend this album for fans of Isis, Deftones, post-rock, and staring at the ceiling for extended periods of time. “Palms” is out now via Ipecac Records.