It’s hard not to see this as Perri’s attempt at inhabiting his little piece of sky.
As much as Sandro Perri’s music suggests the warm, meandering milieu of the ‘70s, the Canadian’s last two albums could only have been made in the 2010s. Last year’s In Another Life encouraged the knee-jerk tendency to tie escapist art this decade into our end-of-the-world anxieties. It asked us to imagine another life free of this one’s horrors, and it created one in a title track whose 24-minute runtime felt like a bulwark against reality until the song ended and our fears set back in. It was new age for a world of shit.
This year’s Soft Landing is less apocalyptic, but it’s a product of its time for another reason: it represents the full flowering of the Vibe in indie rock. For many years a loathing of the Grateful Dead and descendants was almost a given in any underground music descended from punk. Then Animal Collective started sampling their jams, and Real Estate covered “He’s Gone” at a Jerry Day show in San Francisco. Now Vampire Weekend is proudly touting their Phish influences, Bob Weir is working with the Dessner brothers, and Perri can get away with a rootsy, happy-go-lucky shaggy dog story of album whose real estate is largely given up to consonant guitar solos tasteful in everything but length. We even hear him “deedly-deedly-doo” along with one of these solos. He’s so unconcerned with looking cool it’s exhilarating.
What Perri wants from jam-band music is its ability to create an alternate space where time moves a little differently. Though some of these songs attempt pearls of stoner wisdom, “God Blessed the Fool” being particularly aspirational in exalting those free-thinkers who can’t be tamed in school, most of them are about an attitude: living life as freely as a plume of weed smoke unfurling on the wind, dealing with the inevitable real-life obstacles that keep us from tossing our schedules out the window. They’re about themselves in a way. The album’s opener, “Time (You Got Me),” stretches to 16 minutes, as if responding to its own plea: “Please, can we take it slow?” The other five songs are shorter and more structured only in comparison.
“Soft landing” is a term in aeronautics, referring to the intact return of vessels from space. It’s shorthand for everything working out alright, which is the goal Perri’s protagonist so urgently pursues. Soft Landing wants more than anything else to be enjoyed. It’s easy to hear songs like “God Blessed the Fool” and “Back on Love,” which skim the human condition without really diving in, and wish the album was a little more willing to harsh its own buzz. But, hell, we all need a break sometimes. “I look up into whatever little piece of sky seems to say/ ‘Oh, it’s not gonna change,’” he sings on “Wrong about the Rain.” Because Soft Landing is so totally unconcerned with change, it’s hard not to see this as Perri’s attempt at inhabiting his little piece of sky.