Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
It's not that Tim Williams and Matt Welsh got closer to the ocean, when the two moved from New York City to Los Angeles, it's just that they got much, much closer to a different ocean than the one that they'd been more used to. It just might have affected them significantly as they began work on their most recent musical project, Soft Swells. The Pacific Ocean is a different ocean than the Atlantic, and there's a feeling that comes ashore on the coast of the Pacific that's as signature as anything. It's American iconography, even if it weren't just the way it is.
Though they're not always this way, the warm breezes that are thought of to come off the ocean on the West Coast, specifically into California, are moving and unlike any other breezes. They don't try to affect you. They have no other choice but to affect you. The question then though is, "How exactly do they affect you?" and that's what we can't get to. It might be more in the presentation, or that might all be bullshit. They ways in which they seem to have affected the music of Soft Swells is in the way that the music twinkles and bobs with the motion of the blue waves. There's a form of pacifism going on when you're just dealing with going with wherever the winds take you, when you're just stuck going wherever your vessel is taking you. It's likely just taking you somewhere where you're bound to be more vulnerable, where everything that you've learned should be thrown out the window because those rules and lessons don't apply when you can no longer see the land. It's out there, when the major drifting has occurred and doesn't look to be subsiding, when the panic should set in, when you should trying to fight getting further out.
This might actually be the place where we step into a Soft Swells song, with Williams and Welsh introducing thoughts of mortality and undercurrents of a darker agenda. Characters in these songs are working until they die and some of them have heard that true love is actually equivalent to sure death. We can't be sure why they would think such a thing, but far be it for us to tell them they're wrong. We've got nothing substantial to refute the suggestion anyway, so it stands: true love is sure death. Elsewhere, we hear Williams sing, "You tried to kill us/You tried/ You tried to spike our punch," and we thought we just swallowed a huge gulp of salt water. Someone or some thing is out there, wishing ill will, but if it's just true love, we're pretty sure we can get the best of it.
*Essay originally published August, 2012
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