I have always been a bit of a lo-fi/chillwave apologist (so long as I don’t have to literally defend the latter term). Sure, I could have done without the ubiquity of the subgenre on certain tastemaking sites, and after a few beers it admittedly became tough to expound on the differences between Wild Nothings and Cloud Nothings. But the songwriting felt at times underrated, and there’s a raw earnest quality that me and 19-year old me really bonded over while we thought about girls.
But for me, chillwave never carried over well into the live show. With a few exceptions, the whole vibe felt a bit, well, muddled? Murky? Words that sound more apt for describing unfortunate weather than life-changing concert experiences. After seeing a bit of the Smith Westerns open a show a bit after their self-titled debut came on, I lumped them in with this phenomenon. I was very intrigued by their record but it just didn’t translate much in person. Could have simply been the night or the shrimp tacos. Could have been the dick jokes (Were there ever some dick jokes?).
I caught up with them again after their much-adored (for good reason) new record. Few times had a show made me feel so foolish. If anything, these days the live versions actually energize these songs even further. There is still a certain haze and raw element to it, but “All Die Young” sounds like a rock powerhouse. “Weekend” is absolutely infectious and swoon-worthy. The sways it induced went pretty far to remind me that these guys on stage were barely older than the teenagers filling the venue, even if they sounded liked tried and true road musicians. I guess something’s gotta give when you brush the hair out of your eyes to watch Florence and the Machine after you open for her every night? It’s a strange world we live in: the band featured in the “Eat Pray Love” trailer paired up with a group whose on-stage banter reads like a deleted Judd Apatow scene.
Their songwriting seems to shine through more now as well, the way they deliver seems like an inordinate amount of growth for just a couple of years time. If these matured so much in a couple years of working together, what do they become from here? I’m pretty sure the answer is scary good. In case all that growth seems off-putting, we imagine the dick jokes will stay pretty much the same.