By David Colburn
Guitar timbres and textures billow through earphones in sweetness that one can almost taste. Crystalline vocals flow freely and engulf the aural environment. Every little decibel of sound is arranged in a way that provides the listener with a reminiscent sense of comfort and joy.
Thus describes nostalgic pop music, from the psychedelic singles of the late 1960s, the art-infused glam rock of the early 1970s and all of the surf, garage, folk, blues, and jazz hybrids found in-between. Eleven years into the twenty-first century and the style’s influence is as potent as ever, as proudly presented through The Smith Western’s second album, Dye It Blonde.
Melodic intentions are stated immediately: “Weekend” exists in a highly inviting state of youthful exuberance. Never straying far from the established conventions of pop music, the song’s greatest strength lies in the warmth of the production: one cannot help but be captivated by the addictive up-tempo display. “Still New” and “Imagine Pt. 3” follow suit in a dreamy simplicity and almost disturbingly pure disposition. Such descriptions truly serve as a staple of the album’s essence: Dye It Blonde is a sonic piece of strawberry cheesecake and a chocolate milkshake after a full day of work. Enjoy it without a shred of reluctance.
“All Die Young” and “Smile” crawl away from the euphoria for a moment, even if the distance of travel is minimal. The darkest lyricism and greatest emotional maturity are found in the respective tracks, effects which are elevated – one again – through articulate production. Everything resonates with a shameless power and moodiness; the listener will be undeniably invested in the experience as the falsetto vocals dominate their share of “All Die Young” and the stripped-down acoustic guitar chords break through the saturated layers of “Smile”.
For the purpose of analysis, the aforementioned tracks are what the listener can consider to be the most “notable”, but that statement should not be taken the wrong way. Each of Dye It Blonde’s works serve as solid contributions to the world of pop music: The Smith Westerns have crafted a sound based heavily in innocence and sincerity, and it becomes increasingly clear with each listen that “conventional” and “uninspired” are not synonymous.
To those in the mood for sonic innovation and striking melodic originality, look elsewhere for now but remember this work: there will always be a musical craving for well-produced, straightforward retro-based pop music in one’s future. Any question of the album’s quality will be answered within the first few seconds, by the blissful bubblegum tones of those guitar timbres and textures…