Release Date: Apr 26, 2011
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, New Zealand Rock
David Kilgour's way with music over the years is the kind of gift of talent that maintains its own pace; without being demonstrative about it, he just seems to release one excellent album after another in group, collaborative, and solo contexts, where one listen is all it takes to remind someone of just how good he is. Such is the case with his latest album backed by the Heavy Eights, Left by Soft, where the opening instrumental title track has not one, but two brilliant solos that seem to float above the energetic, crisp chug of the main arrangement like birds skimming over a lake. It's a hell of a start, and from there Left by Soft maintains an easy grace song for song, Kilgour is still in good voice and creates lyrics that are often gently unusual in their understated metaphoric impact.
New Zealand pop lifer David Kilgour’s Left by Soft, his seventh proper full-length (and third for Merge), is a lovely addition to the veteran songwriter’s catalog. While Kilgour’s work here (augmented by his able backing band the Heavy Eights) is by no means underwhelming, there is something pleasantly ephemeral about the mid-tempo guitar strum of “Change in the Weather” or the blissfully fuzzed-out “Autumn Sun,” as if to give these songs too much thought would be to undermine their charms. That said, Left by Soft is also unquestionably the work of a dedicated and intelligent craftsman.
It must feel good to reach the point in a career when you can just head into the studio with a few other guys and casually knock out a satisfying record. Maybe I'm projecting here, though. For all I know, David Kilgour spent grueling hours refining the songs on Left By Soft and rehearsed his band with military discipline, but that doesn't seem likely.
First off, let’s get this out of the way: This is not a comeback album, or a return to form, or anything like that. If Kilgour has been anything over the course of his 30-odd years in music, he has been consistent. He was, after all, in the Clean—quietly one of the most influential bands in independent music—and they just turned out the solid Mister Pop in 2009, and Kilgour has his own string of great solo albums, including classics like 2002’s A Feather in the Engine.