Londoners with a penchant for American folk harmonies, outdoor imagery and a tendency to personify seasons, America hit in the early 1970s with a string of gentle, heartfelt tunes such as “Sister Golden Hair,” “A Horse With No Name,” and “Tin Man.”
Sample lyric: “‘Cause the free wind is blowing through your hair / And the days surround your daylight there / Seasons crying no despair.” (Associated Press, Associated Press)
Seattleites with a knack for American folk harmonies, outdoor imagery and the tendency to imagine the forest as some sort of Disney-inspired fantasy, Fleet Foxes burst onto the scene with an unapologetic love of bands such as America and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Sample lyric: The world is alive now, in and outside our home / You run through the forest, settle before the sun. (Sub Pop Records)
The former Doobie Brother makes soul music for dads flirting with unamused beer cart girls at the driving range. Indie kids can swipe the anti-funk guitar scratching from “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near),” but when it’s time to pop an Enzyte and a box of Chardonnay with your lady, accept no substitutes.
Sample lyric: “Never be lonely lost in the night / Just run from the darkness / Looking for the light / ‘cause it’s a long hard road.” (Michael Sanville)
Saxophone riffs as smooth as Sunday mimosas? A slathering of chorus effects on every guitar track? An honest-to-goodness flute solo? No, Destroyer’s “Kaputt” isn’t a lost Michael McDonald album, but it does prove that the line between artful indie re-appropriation and yacht rock fromage is getting blurrier every year.
Sample lyric: “Step out of your toga and look to the folk / You are a prince in the ocean.” (Ted Bois)
Smooth American balladeer who dressed up his adult ballads — fit equally for a slow dance or a dentist’s office — with soft synthesizer tones. A pessimistic streak marked many of Cross’ hits, and he wasn’t afraid to get a little serious, as he did on run-for-the-border “Ride Like the Wind.”
Sample lyric: “There’s always someone new / To try and help me forget about you / Time and again it does me no good.” (Los Angeles Times)
Smooth English balladeer who dressed down his adult ballads — fit equally for a beach party or a LASIK office — as synthesizers or keyboards usually stand behind an acoustic guitar. The tone of a lovesick puppy marked much of Blunt’s hits, but his military past proves he’s no softee.
Sample lyric: “I saw your face in a crowded place / And I don’t know what to do / Because I’ll never be with you.” (Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times)
The king of mid-1970s soft rock, Fogelberg is probably responsible for many an unplanned pregnancy in the years from ’75 to ’85. The cover of his “Nether Lands” record captures the essence of the subgenre: a close-up of a thoughtful (bearded) man staring at something far, far away — or at an emotion buried deep inside his heart.
Sample lyric: “Stronger than any mountain cathedral / Truer than any tree ever grew / Deeper than any forest primeval / I am in love with you.” (John Fung / Los Angeles Times)
Tim Heidecker is best known as one half of the comedy duo Tim and Eric, but he has expanded his creative life to take on soft rock with writing partner Davin Wood. On their forthcoming debut full length, “Starting From Nowhere,” the sincere duo craft perfectly imagined should-be classics such as “Grandest Canyon,” “Wedding Song” and, best, “Cross Country Skiing.”
Sample lyric: “Sun is on my pillow / But I am not in bed / I’m out in the country snow with a ski cap on my head / Coffee in my belly / Will surely keep me warm / A mountain lunch packed in my sack / Of raisins, nuts and corn / We’re going cross-country skiing.” (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Singer David Gates’ gentle delivery and earnest, heart-on-sleeve emotions are an archetype of the 1970s. After years of psychedelic rock and during the first wave of heavy metal, Bread found that nothing perked the ears (and loins) of the populace like flaccid emotion.
Sample lyric: “Baby, I’m-a want you / Baby, I’m-a need you / You the only one I care enough to hurt about.” (Los Angeles Times)
Born in Seattle but now residing in South Carolina, Band of Horses create epic, windswept music that soars like freshly feathered hair. Theirs is a sound that started hard and somewhat distorted, but over the years has both mellowed and chilled out. Music for relaxed, but heavy, petting.
Sample lyric: When islands want to coast / Islands want to coast / They’ll know how / Yeah, they’ll know how. (Pablove Foundation)