Once again, a wonderful young band does Seattle proud. This time, it’s The Soft Hills, a psychedelic folk quartet that embodies the sensibilities of its ’60s and ’70s influences so well, it almost makes me wanna throw on something bohemian and join a drum circle. There’s just something about that old sound that never gets old, and I’m so glad that so many artists can emulate it today in a way that’s both accurate and fresh.
The band plans to release its second full-length album, The Bird Is Coming Down to Earth, Feb. 14, 2012, on Germany’s Tapete Records, followed by a European tour in May. They recently released a music video for the album’s opening track, “Phoenix,” directed by John Behr. In it, lead singer Garrett Hobba stumbles into a spiritual journey in what appear to be the arid hills of central Washington. Led by a bear-headed shaman, his path to enlightenment starts out rough but ends with a happy dance around a fire pit.
The song’s vocal harmonies ring of early America (the band, sillies, not the country), and the music after the Neil Young canon. “Phoenix” is, in a sense, a song about rebirth. It seems to be an ode to becoming free of one’s societal burdens and all the undue stress we put on ourselves to have such “proper” lives. “Poverty’s the wise man’s gold/ He throws his riches to the open road/ There’s too many wheels turning ’round/ Kill the engine, we’re slowing down.” We are weighed down by our material existence; our needs are so much more basic than we seem to realize. “You can walk with me anytime you want/ ‘cause there’s really no place to arrive/ Just enjoy the scenes and you’ll be doing fine.” People don’t often allow themselves to simply experience life, because they’re always too busy doing ultimately unnecessary things. Perhaps these cages we’ve built for ourselves are too strong to break out of, but at least, every so often, we can reach out and see what little bit of deliverance we’re able to grasp.
Or maybe they’re talking about something completely different. Either way, great song. Put that album on your radar.