Chicago-based indie outfit Smut — Tay Roebuck (vocals), Andrew Min (guitar), Bell Cenower (bass, synth), Sam Ruschman (guitar, synth) and Aidan O’Connor (drums) — released their sophomore album How the Light Felt through Bayonet Records.
While 2020’s Power Fantasy EP saw Smut dipping its toe into more experimental waters, How the Light Felt saw the band diving headfirst into their vast array of 80s and 90s influences, including Oasis, Cocteau Twins, Gorillaz, and Massive Attack — while pushing their sound in a new direction.
How the Light Felt‘s material can be traced back to 2017: Following her sister’s death, Tay Roebuck turned to writing to help her navigate a labyrinth of grief and heartache. “This album is very much about the death of my little sister, who committed suicide a few weeks before her high school graduation in 2017,” Roebuck explains in press notes. ” “It was a moment in which my life was destroyed permanently, and it’s something you cannot prepare for.”
Roebuck’s bandmates composed the song’s arrangements, excavating underutilized 90s guitar tones and drum beats to build an expansive sonic world for her lyrics. “A couple weeks after the funeral we played a show and I couldn’t keep it together,” Roebuck says, “but we just kept playing and started writing because it was truly all I felt I had, it was all I could do to feel any sense of purpose. For the past five years now I’ve been chipping my way through grief and loss and I think the album itself is just the story of a person working through living with a new weight on top of it all.”
While rooted in profound heartbreak and loss, the album’s material pairs nostalgic inducing guitar tones, lush yet unfussy production, lived-in lyricism, and earnest vocals in a way that turns pain into a bittersweet yet necessary catharsis. Certainly, if you’ve lost a loved one, the album will likely resonate with you on a deeper level than most.
Just ahead of a handful of tour dates with Knifeplay and Citizen, the band and their label shared “18 Tons” and “Y Signal,” which were originally featured as bonus tracks on the Japanese CD edition of the band’s sophomore album.
Building on the building’s thematic exploration or grief and its impact on the surviving family members and friends, the two previously released bonus tracks continue the overall aesthetic of delving into their influences while pushing their sound in new directions.
Built around swirling synths, reverb-drenched guitars, and crackling, staccato drum samples and Roebuck’s tender delivery, “18 Tons” explores dark and dizzying feelings of bargaining with oneself and their feelings with a lived-in specificity before a cathartic final chorus.
Opening with glistening synths, “Y Signal” is a gentle, almost lullaby-like anthem for avoidant personality types with a narrator, who sprinkles in revenge fantasies, self-recrimination and blame in a mischievous and deceptively hopeful soundscape. Much like the preceding track, “Y Signal” is rooted in Roebuck’s incisive, lived-in lyricism.
Tour dates are below as usual.
Smut Tour Dates:
Sun. Oct. 1 – St. Paul, MN @ The Treasury *
Mon. Oct. 2 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club *
Tue. Oct. 3 – Chicago, IL @ Sleeping Village *
Wed. Oct. 18 – Indianapolis, IN @ Hi-Fi Annex +
* with Knifeplay
+ with Citizen