Under the tireless leadership of songwriter Garrett Hobba, Seattle-based indie psych act the Soft Hills began turning in nearly annual albums of spacy folk in 2010, each record slowly gaining more focus. Released in 2013, Chromatisms saw the band moving away slightly from the indie folk reference points of its earliest albums, opting for experiments with echo-drenched textures instead of rootsy sentimentality. Perhaps aptly titled, fourth album Departure all but strips the Soft Hills sound of its earlier woodsy wandering, delving further into exploratory deep space and even more solid excursions into traditional indie rock. Soft Hills' basic songwriting core finds itself somewhere between the obscured melancholy of Red House Painters and the spaced-out pop sensibilities of mid-period Pink Floyd, but the edges are sharper in both directions on these songs. The straightforward album opener, "Golden Hour," has the same sung-spoken directness and chiming guitar plinks of the best Lee Ranaldo-penned Sonic Youth tracks, and the springy "Belly of a Whale" has the same lighthearted bounce and organ drones of Yo La Tengo. Elsewhere, the bandmembers flex their experimental tendencies, with druggy slide guitar lines and reverb-heavy snare hits framing the classic down-the-rabbit-hole motif of a psychedelic journey on "White Queen." "How Can I Explain?" is a less on the soft side, with driving rhythms pushing forward, gurgling guitar tones, and subdued bubbling electronic effects. Clearer in their vision than ever before, the Soft Hills turn in their brightest productions and most daring songwriting choices on Departure, setting the scene for even further refinement on future albums.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas