Like so many bands before them, Smith Westerns traded in lo-fi garage rock for the professional polish of a real studio on their sophomore album. That strategy is usually employed to accentuate the serious songcraft hiding underneath the grime, but on Dye It Blonde it had a better side effect for the Chicago youngsters: it perfectly suited the fuzzy T. Rex-influenced glam leads that were suddenly the group's stock in trade.
Finally, on album three, maturity has caught up to them, meaning you can say goodbye to the snotty "all die young" sentiment of their past and also, unfortunately, to a lot of the fun. Soft Will is all melancholic ballads and uncertain coming-of-age questioning of their former YOLO-isms. They even throw in a moody Pink Floydesque instrumental (XXIII) that, strangely, doesn't feel out of place. But Smith Westerns have proven themselves adept chameleons and excel in their new style. It's just tough not to miss the old one.
Top track: Glossed
Smith Westerns play Lee's Palace on July 29.