Album Review: Left By Soft


Published in MV Remix, 2011

With his seventh solo effort, Left By Soft, David Kilgour has crafted a record of wistful, breezy indie-pop that will be sure to please longtime fans.  Although relatively unknown in America, Kilgour has become something of a legend in indie circles, many dubbing him the Lou Reed of New Zealand.

Its been said that after listening to the Velvet Underground in the late 60’s, teenagers nationwide grabbed their guitars and rushed to the garage to start a band. Just as Reed’s group spawned countless sound-a-likes in its wake, Kilgour’s seminal band The Clean has been lauded as forerunners of the Lo-Fi scene of the early 90’s. Fun, brash, and painfully poignant, bands from Pavement to Yo La Tengo to The Apples In Stereo have sited these Kiwi rockers as a pivotal influence on their sound. Sadly, The Clean ruled the airwaves in their native New Zealand, but save for the occasional play on college radio, were largely ignored in the United States. Still, Kilgour has remained one of the most consistent songwriters of his time, never afraid to cross genres from post-punk to psychedelic pop.

By laying off the electric guitar (mostly), and allowing his acoustic side some breathing room, Left By Soft is, by all accounts, exactly what the title would suggest: soft. Kilgour certainly seems to have slowed down. But with his ear for melody and lyrical wit, this pace seems to suit him.

Standout tracks include the instrumental “Left By Soft”, a surf rock tune with a Pixies-style guitar lick. On “A Break in the Weather”, undoubtedly the most accessible song, we see Kilgour at his most philosophical, reflecting on, well, the weather. Like most of the album, it’s mellow, slightly abstract, and proof of Kilgour’s 30 years of pop sensibility.

On Left By Soft, we see a man comfortable in his own skin. There’s not much to shout about here, but nothing to criticize, either. He’s not trying to prove anything. He’s simply playing what he knows, and playing it to perfection.

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