New Zealand pop lifer David Kilgour’s Left by Soft, his seventh proper full-length (and third for Merge), is a lovely addition to the veteran songwriter’s catalog. While Kilgour’s work here (augmented by his able backing band the Heavy Eights) is by no means underwhelming, there is something pleasantly ephemeral about the mid-tempo guitar strum of “Change in the Weather” or the blissfully fuzzed-out “Autumn Sun,” as if to give these songs too much thought would be to undermine their charms. That said, Left by Soft is also unquestionably the work of a dedicated and intelligent craftsman.
Since banging out bittersweet lo-fi anthems with his brother Hamish in the Clean, Kilgour has been honing and perfecting the warm, welcoming simplicity of distorted, yet eminently hummable guitar-pop. After thirty years at it, he has no need to impress, nor does he seem to have any desire to reach a new commercial plateau. (Did he ever?) While the track “Pop Song” is ostensibly for a lost love, it could be Kilgour’s sly kiss-off to a music business that never interested him in the first place: “Yeah I’ll write you a pop song one day.” Maybe some beer company will use “Tally-Ho” in a commercial (hey, it happened to Chris Knox) and he’ll make a bundle, but until then Kilgour seems content to strum away seemingly without a care in the world.