Silversun’s new album evolves, lacks finesse

by John Anderson

From left to right: Guaniao, Monninger, Aubert and Lester.  | Courtesy of Autumn Dewilde
From left to right: Guaniao, Monninger, Aubert and Lester. | Courtesy of Autumn Dewilde

The Los Angeles-based quartet Silversun Pickups is back with its third full-length album, “Neck of the Woods.” Back in 2006, the band’s first single “Lazy Eye” led the way as the band exploded onto the alternative scene. The first album, “Carnavas,” set the bar high for the band, and though “Swoon” wasn’t an incredible follow-up, the band was able to experiment and evolve with its ever-rising fame.

“Neck of the Woods” follows in the same vein. Brian Aubert and company continue to try different sounds and styles while managing to underline the new songs with the characteristic Silversun Pickups sound.

“Skin Graph” opens the new album with Aubert’s telltale vocals in the driver’s seat complemented by Nikki Monninger’s subtle background cooing. The song features an “Inception”-esque horn blast, and is a bit of minimalist on the effects, for Silversun Pickups at least. The highlight of the song is a long, satisfying, muted bridge with aurally sweeping guitar delays harkening back to “Carnavas.”

Before moving to the next song, pull Blink-182’s “Adam’s Song” up on YouTube. Listen to the first 10 seconds to get a firm impression of the opening guitar line. Now, start “Make Believe.” The similarity is remarkable, though it doesn’t distract from the quality of the song. Apart from the familiar opening hook, the song features a punchy bass and guitar lines and some fun effects-driven backing noise. Aubert’s vocals are at their best here, and “Make Believe” is one of the best on the album.

Despite the eye rolling opening line in “Busy Bees,” the frequent pace and tone variations make the song worth a listen. Guitar dominates in the same tone as the previous song. “Here We Are” is reminiscent of “Three Seed” on the band’s debut album, though the drum machine makes it sound considerably more electronic.

The band steps into the 1980s with “The Pit.” The bass tone sets the song apart from anything Silversun Pickups has done before. “The Pit” is another of the album’s highlights. The latest effort ends on a strong note with “Out of Breath.”

The band seems to have developed a love for changing pace, which is musically interesting, but distracting. “Neck of the Woods” isn’t the best album to listen to while doing homework or trying to relax in the way “Carnavas” was, though it represents the band’s next step in the evolution of their style.

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