The Pacific Northwest seems to have found a niche in recreating psychedelic folk-rock with epic sweeps of sound under softly textured vocal harmonies. First Band of Horses, then Fleet Foxes and now Seattle’s up-and-coming The Soft Hills. The band recently released its new album, The Bird Is Coming Down to Earth, on Germany’s Tapete Records, and it’s easy to hear the influence of the ’60s permeating its gait.
A music video for opening track “Phoenix” seems to perfectly encapsulate the band’s style as a man takes a spiritual journey in the desert sunlight. The song is all about letting go of the material world and discovering personal fulfillment from within. “Poverty’s the wise man’s gold,” Garrett Hobba sings in a gossamer voice that sounds layered upon itself — “He throws his riches to the open road,” he continues, in rhythms and tones that rode once before on “A Horse With No Name.”
There’s so much familiar inflection on The Bird Is Coming Down to Earth, it’s hard to not want to draw comparisons to the greats of the past, namely Neil Young and The Doors. At times, the music even reflects something a little more modern — I’ve found myself likening some songs to MGMT, and Hobba’s voice nearly mimics Thom Yorke’s on “Tidal Waves” and “Chosen One.”
What’s particularly notable about The Soft Hills’ album is when the music waxes experimental. “Tidal Waves” spends much of its time treading a haze of electric guitar and gravelly drums. While it’s not what I’d call soft, it’s certainly fit for chilling out to and, if you’re so inclined, meeting with an altered state of mind. All the songs are; I can assure you that “Purple Moon” is, on its own, a perfectly lovely song to drift off to, but I know enough to see it going over very well in a smoky, blacklit room. If you know what I mean. And I think you do.
The Soft Hills’ melodies often manage to draw me so deeply into their music that it’s a drug in itself. I’m partial to the album’s final two songs: “It Won’t Be Too Long” and “Falling Leaves” end the band’s expansive journey through the far reaches of psychedelic rock history with an appropriate cool-down period. First, “It Won’t Be Too Long” offers a Floyd-ian take on its folkier side, and finally, “Falling Leaves” pares the formula down to vocals and acoustic guitar.
See The Soft Hills perform in Seattle before they embark on a European tour this spring. They’re playing with Deep Sea Diver and Daniel G. Harmann & The Trouble Starts at Columbia City Theater 8 p.m. Feb. 24. Tickets are $8 in advance at Brown Paper Tickets or $10 at the door.