David Kilgour's way with music over the years is the kind of gift of talent that maintains its own pace; without being demonstrative about it, he just seems to release one excellent album after another in group, collaborative, and solo contexts, where one listen is all it takes to remind someone of just how good he is. Such is the case with his latest album backed by the Heavy Eights, Left by Soft, where the opening instrumental title track has not one, but two brilliant solos that seem to float above the energetic, crisp chug of the main arrangement like birds skimming over a lake. It's a hell of a start, and from there Left by Soft maintains an easy grace song for song, Kilgour is still in good voice and creates lyrics that are often gently unusual in their understated metaphoric impact. Little surprise, then, that he grapples with the subject of lyrics directly on the understated, country-flecked "Pop Song" and does so with his typical skill, promising someone that "I'll write you a pop song one day," then following it up with the question "Did you swallow a bucket of words?" When he combines that kind of gift with his playing the results can be lovely; thus the idea of "A Break in the Weather" may seem like a well-worn comparison point, but when, again, his solo comes to the fore toward the end of the song, it really does feel that the sun has come out through the clouds. The soft flanging and chimes on "Steel Arrow" and "Diamond Mine" show that the New Zealand reputation of melodic rock remains strong, while the concluding instrumental "Purple Balloon" balances a quiet but energetic band performance with a simply lovely Kilgour lead that is a spotlight moment if there ever was one. The group's overall gift for handling their arrangements in contrast shows up throughout: thus, "Way Down Here" starts with what sounds like a gentler tune, only to turn more tightly wound and almost manic toward the end, Kilgour's singing gaining a suddenly sharper edge as the band rips into a surging crunch at once triumphant and, as with the song lyric, sliding on a descent. "Autumn Sun" plays up that melancholic/glam-derived musical sense even more; if anything, it almost sounds like a song by the Church, not a bad place to be at all. But given the the Heavy Eights' strengths throughout, it makes more sense to say that Kilgour's definitely found his own personal Crazy Horse.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett