For a city still tied intrinsically to its grunge history, Seattle might soon find itself identified as a centre of folk-pop. Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses are at the forefront, of course, but somewhere just behind them are the Soft Hills, who have just released their second album The Bird Is Coming Down To Earth. It’s their first release since 2008 EP Painted Word, so more than a little overdue, but fans of psych pop should find it worth the wait.
Opener ‘Phoenix’ reveals a band raised on the same Laurel Canyon sounds as their Seattle contemporaries, even if they don’t come armed with the same killer hooks or harmonies. It’s a sunny, summery sound, which takes some acclimatising to when you’re listening as snow collects on the window ledge outside, but soon enough they’ve got you along for the ride.
They flick around several different sounds, from the sweet synth of ‘River Boat’ that recalls Grandaddy or Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips, to the darker, gloomy rock of ‘Tidal Waves’ but rarely change gears, except for a brief, more urgent interlude which comes with ‘Chosen One’ a more upbeat rocker. From their, they quickly slow to a crawl on ‘Purple Moon’, which leads to the easiest criticism of this collection – the urgent need for a change of pace on a record that can otherwise leave you drifting off towards the end.