The three teenage sisters who make up Smoosh have been around long enough that the eldest two, Asya and Chloe, were technically tweens when their career began, and their youngest sister Maia was far too young to be in the fold yet (she recently joined the band full-time as its bass player). In 2006, the hype around the formerly Seattle band, which has now released three albums, was considerable, and since then it’s dropped off almost entirely, which is a bit of a bummer, due to the fact that their third album Withershins, which came out last summer, is excellent. (It’s free as a digital download on Bandcamp; the physical CD, self-released, has sold out).
Lack of a good PR team is probably the only reason no one (save for KEXP, which hosted them for an in-studio session last year), is talking about this band right now. The girls will have a chance to present the Withershins material to a wider US audience next week at SXSW, where they’re playing several shows, and here’s hoping that they get signed by a label willing to re-release Withershins, and possibly even to re-record it in a better studio setup.
It’s fascinating to have heard what Smoosh has done — their first two albums are full of keyboard-driven, punky pop songs that explode messily and youthfully with the help of Chloe’s skillful drumming — and then suddenly come across Withershins, the product of three nearly grown-up ladies’ view of the world. Asya is the emotional center of this operation, and it’s no surprise that this album, written when she was college-age (the girls have, at least temporarily, dropped out of high school), is darker, more sophisticated, and more adventurous. Asya makes full use of her keyboards, exploring a broad range of synths, and Chloe uses some eerie drum effects of the kind you’d hear on a Bat for Lashes track. Smoosh has always been precocious, but it is truly remarkable that Withershins was written by three teenagers.
This is music for a solo walk or the soundtrack to whatever film John Stockwell (Crazy/Beautiful, Blue Crush) is currently working on. Fans of a diverse collection of piano people — Tori Amos, Coldplay, The Delgados, Death Cab for Cutie (whose drummer helped Smoosh get their start), Chantal Kreviazuk, Bat for Lashes — will appreciate this music, as well as boys and girls who think the girls are hot (they are).
The show-stopper here is “The Line.” It sounds like it was written in the ’90s — in a good way. Rhythmically, it’s the band’s most advanced composition, and it also finds Asya really pushing her soft vocals to their limits. There are plenty of special effects on this album, which may feel like too big of a departure from the straightforward and frankly cute music these girls used to make (“Aaaairplane,” for example, sounds like Chairlift-via-Culture Club). But with Withershins we’re getting to witness three teenagers as they figure out who they are as people and artists. In the latter case, they’re proving they’ve been keeping a vast portion of their talent and creativity a secret all these years, or else they’ve just recently discovered the secret themselves.
Listen to “The Line” below: