Nic Hessler

Soft Connections

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With his band Catwalk, 19-year-old Nic Hessler was one of indie pop's likely lads in 2010, having released a handful of beloved singles for YAY! and Captured Tracks and getting ready for a big tour. Five years later, having lived through an illness that left him partially paralyzed and unable to play music, he's made it back to the national stage with a solo record that fulfills all the promise that many feared would never be. It's not exactly the return of Catwalk, more like how Catwalk might have sounded after a few years of refining and perfecting their sound. Soft Connections has a huge, clean sound that captures every guitar jangle, every melodic bassline, every breathy whisper, and delivers them wrapped in a shiny bow, like the gift the album is. It truly would have been a shame to have lost Hessler's songwriting, his knack for crafting a sound, and the love for all kinds of indie pop that comes through in his songs. The big sound of '90s bands like Lilac Time and Lightning Seeds, the layered brilliance of the Church, the moping bounce of the Smiths, the emotional nakedness of most of the Sarah Records bands, the sonic punch of great American bands like Velocity Girl and Pains of Being Pure at Heart -- Hessler has obviously studied them all and used them to create something very familiar, yet all his own. Mostly midtempo and melancholic, with the occasional uptempo rocker and relaxed ballad for balance, the album plays like a one-man greatest hits of indie pop through the ages, with a redone version of Catwalk's "(Please) Don't Break Me" serving as the highlight. The rest of the album doesn't lag far behind, though, and almost any track could be cherry-picked to use as an example of Hessler's complete mastery of indie pop. It's been a long time coming, to the point when it seemed it might never happen, but Soft Connections announces the reappearance of a major talent, one whom all fans of indie pop owe it to themselves to discover or rediscover.

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