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Soft Swells

Soft Swells

(Modern Outsider; US: 28 Feb 2012; UK: 28 Feb 2012)

Gauzy electro-pop collaboration hits the sweet spot.

Soft Swells is a collaboration between California’s Tim Williams and Brooklyn’s Matt Welsh of Phonograph. With a sound that combines the laid-back surf vibe of California with a sound built of of layers of synth-heavy electronic sounds, Soft Swells manages to bring a warm organic feeling to songs that might have suffered from electronic iciness. Much of the warmth comes from Williams’ vocals, which express a yearning and wistfulness that brings real heart to the proceedings. Album opener “Every Little Thing” establishes the tone, with standout tracks like “Don’t Cut It Off,” “Never Leave Home” and “Make It Go Away” profitably mining a similar vein. These songs all come later in the album; perversely, the early songs actually feel more tired and formulaic, as with the unmemorable “Overrated.” Overall, though, these tunes manage to be exactly what they aim for: little three-minute nuggets of electro-pop candy. As with any candy, they start feeling insubstantial after a while, but they sure go down easy.

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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