Dye It Blonde
If 2011 pans out to be the year of sonic upgrade from fuzz-focused recording, let it be known that the precocious Smith Westerns led the brigade. Born in a studio instead of a basement, the Chicagoans’ sophomore full-length is tightened and scrubbed clean of a few of the layers of reverb that doused their debut, bringing to the forefront an ambitious and dexterous level of songwriting that belies their ever-so-slightly-post-adolescent ages. It certainly bears the mark of an acute awareness of their lineage — at times, the Marc Bolan-inspired flourishes feel downright cinematic, from the swirling organ that announces the glam-rock balladry of “All Die Young’’ to the overpowering electric guitar squeal and piano rollick of “End of the Night.’’ But luckily, all that studiousness doesn’t pave the way for excess self-seriousness; “Dye It Blonde’’ still packs a patently youthful and gleefully unpoetic punch. “Spend my time wondering if you’re falling in love with me,’’ vocalist Cullen Omori pines on “Only One.’’ Later, on the hugely hooky “Dance Away,’’ he chants: “It’s like fire to the flame / And we’ll dance the night away,’’ and you’re absolutely certain that they will. (Out today)
ESSENTIAL “Dance Away’’
Smith Westerns play Great Scott March 2.