The Buzz On: Soft Swells

Credit: Soft Swells

Soft Swells are a band of New York expats turned proud Californians — they named the group after the ocean, after all — though the music’s more rugged than you’d expect from the City of Angels. On single “Every Little Thing,” Soft Swells channel the Technicolor guitar-pop of Summerteeth-era Wilco, balancing high-flying synthesizer parts against guitars straight from the garage and frontman Tim Williams’ borderline-twangy vocals. Guitarist Matt Welsh’s former band, Phonograph, spent some time touring with the long-lived Chicago group, so it’s no surprise the elder act rubbed off — Williams, too, sounds more Midwestern than Brooklyn-bred.

Wilco’s not the only influence: “Lifeboats,” which the group’s previewing in acoustic form on its Facebook page, offers a gentler side, full of intricate guitar picking that nods to Fleet Foxes‘ swaying folk. Before meeting up with Welsh, Williams was releasing well-polished indie-rock albums for Dovecoat Records, but Soft Swells’ shambling sound feels like a more natural fit for the singer’s emotive pipes.

The band’s the latest addition to L.A.’s impressive indie-rock scene, which includes unsigned jammers Lord Huron and the rusty anthems of Apex Manor, among like-minded acts. (And you probably thought all Cali had was Kardashians.) We’ll admit, it’s pretty easy to get distracted from rocking with all this sunshine and trips to In-N-Out, but Soft Swells are staying focused: The duo’s self-titled debut album is due Feb. 28 on Modern Outsider Records. Save it for your next beach day.

+ Listen to Soft Swells.