[12 February 2012]
The Soft Hills are a quartet out of Seattle whose new LP The Bird is Coming Down to Earth covers a range of musical sounds, from folk to psychedelic to ambient. Signed to Germany’s Tapete Records, the band comes across as a more pastoral Fresh & Onlys with some of Deerhunter’s epic dreaminess thrown in. Songs about death and mysticism are intriguing, and Matt Brown’s production work gives a sense of atmosphere, but the album is bogged down by tracks (“Return to Eden”, “It Won’t Be Long”) that feel aimless. Equally frustrating is how lead singer Garrett Hobba just sounds bored; a track like “Chosen One”, then, hits harder with a rare moment when Hobba is actually stretching his voice over strong back-up vocals. Most telling is how the album’s best song, “Falling Leaves”, sounds unlike the others. An acoustic number that nicely echoes Neil Young and features some of the album’s more captivating lyrical passages, it leaves you wondering if the Soft Hills should just scale back on the reverb. Or if the band finds a better balance of atmosphere and songwriting, that’ll be an LP worth spending time with.