The Soft Hills, Departure (3/18, Tapete Records, While similarities to the

The Soft Hills, Departure (3/18, Tapete Records, While similarities to the melodic rock of Death Cab for Cutie exist, and where its folksy stylings call to mind Fleet Foxes, the Soft Hills truly make a sound all its own. Formed in 2007 by singer/songwriter Garrett Hobba, the Soft Hills sounds familiar because of its sweeping arrangements, crisp harmonies, inspiration drawn from lofty dreams, and of course Hobba’s soft, angelic vocals. Unlike the Americana leanings of previous releases, Departure finds the Soft Hills exploring more classic, rock-minded influences, including Syd Barrett, Brian Eno, and overtones of  ’80s pop. The differences continue in the way the four-piece puts it all together: draping the album with layers of shimmering synths and lush, often psychedelic instrumentation. Album high points include lead single “Golden Hour,” a slow roller that feels like it could fit on the first Twilight soundtrack (this is a compliment), and “The Fold,” which finds Hobba delivering lyrics both concise and shockingly straightforward. While the words might not require much dissection, their accessibility is appreciated: “Lying in a vacant lot, sucking on alcohol/There’s no way he can make it, no one’s gonna save him/It’s over.” As a whole, the band’s melancholic, easy-on-the-ears vibe is something truly lovely and worth the listen. That the album was mixed in London by Abbey Road veteran Guy Massey (Spiritualized, the Beatles, Manic Street Preachers)? Well, that’s just a plus.