Little in this Chicago quartet's history up to this point would suggest the Smith Westerns to be capable of making the kind of music one hears on "Soft Will."

Sure, the band's previous two albums displayed a knack for blending catchy melodies with 1960s-influenced echoey garage-band guitars, but, from the beginning, "Soft Will," due on Tuesday, immediately launches us into a completely different realm.

This splendid musical world contains stunning melodies, lighter-than-air vocal harmonies and carefully crafted arrangements working together to create tracks of rarefied beauty.

Guitars still play a role, but not a dominant one. Piano and synthesized orchestrations contribute equally as much, bringing a sense of stateliness and grace to tracks such as "Fool Proof." When guitar finally does take the lead during that song's coda, it serves as a well-thought-out counterbalance to the rest of the arrangement.

Even "Best Friend," the album's most guitar-centric tune, floats instead of stinging, gliding along on a gossamer melody and entrancing vocals.

Tracks range from the impossibly lush "Varsity" to the somewhat edgier jangle of "Glossed." Fortunately there is just enough grit -- barely -- in the band's playing to keep the whole enterprise from drifting off into the dream-pop ionosphere.