Album opener and highlight "I Feel Again" has a nice, hazy pop feel, and could be taken as a straightforward love song, or a comment on his rebound from near-paralysis; either way, it's a good song. The record is a little front-loaded, with the aforementioned opener and the second track "Hearts, Repeating" (also the album's first single) standing out as far and away the most memorable songs.
The rest of Soft Connections floats along very pleasantly with some pretty songs, all featuring shimmering guitar and nice melodies, but ultimately not a ton of hooks. Though he could use a few more standout tracks, Hessler does sustain a chilled-out, late-summer vibe for the duration of the album. Taken as a whole, Soft Connections sounds kind of like a Big Star cover band performing the soundtrack to a lost John Hughes movie.
For an artist with as compelling a back-story as Hessler, I would have liked to see him delve more deeply and overtly into the darker elements of his journey within the pop mold — for John Hughes fans, think less Andrew McCarthy and more Judd Nelson. Still, this is a promising solo debut from an interesting artist whose best work remains in front of him, and there is a lot to like here for fans of jangly pop. (Captured Tracks)