Album title: Neck of the Woods
Release date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012.
Tracks: 11 (you can find the tracklist here)
After a good three years and some odd weeks, Los Angeles alternative band Silversun Pickups has released its third true studio album to date, Neck of the Woods…which does just about everything but disappoint.
In all honesty, I had no doubt this album would be quite tops, but I wasn’t sure it would be this enthralling. I mean, to all who don’t yet know about the band (even after playing “Lazy Eye” or “Panic Switch” for them), I’ve always described Silversun Pickups as the lovechild of some heavy, angst-driven and emotion-controlled early 90s grunge/alternative band and a modern, upstanding indie group, taking from each the most prominent aspects of their personalities; for this album, my description still holds mostly true, save for new aspects of midnight movie score-esque darkness and despairing searches for the truth, which simply add to the tight song structures the band is known for.
In any case, I come to you, oh sound-hungry Internet patron, from hours of pumping Neck of the Woods into my ears on repeat, trying to take in each bit of every song in any way I could…and, consequently, some conclusions were drawn.
One thing eerily prevalent within the first few songs is that the album rings like the arcane backing score of some driving, blood-soaked mystery-thriller. If the song titles and supporting lyrics aren’t enough (i.e. “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)”, “Mean Spirits”, etc.), then the combination of bassist Nikki Monniger’s strategically muted lines (especially prevalent in the beginning of “Mean Spirits”, after the initial Incesticide-worthy explosion of mottled sound) and drummer Christopher Guanlao’s tight, almost metal-esque beats backing lead singer/guitarist Brian Aubert’s licks and Joe Lester’s synth additions ought to drive the feeling home. Some feelings were allowed, by the longevity of pauses and sequences in songs, to over-develop, however, which was not exactly optimal, hence my taking one point from my rating.
Another is that the album is a good mix of the sounds one will find on Carnavas (my personal favourite SSPU album, 2006) and Swoon, having equal parts distortion and equal parts synth; also, the feeling of being lost in a sea of rusty emotion in an area where there is nothing but open space (though the band originated from the ultra-hip and therefore urban and dense Silver Lake area of Los Angeles) is combined with dark motives and sensibilities, making the feeling of a joint album even more profound. Sometimes, when asked the name of the new album, I find myself preparing to form the words Carnavas-Swoon (or some not-so-clever combination of the two) instead of Neck of the Woods. Going back to the previously mentioned metaphor, I suppose this album could only be described as the lovechild of both records, with just enough of the former’s rough, faster-paced and the latter’s somewhat slower, more synth-oriented sound to be described as its parents’ undeniable offspring, having just enough to distinguish itself as its own album but not enough to draw the family comparisons awa
In any case, I’d give this album a listen…a few times. Then again, I do have a soft spot for this particular band, even when reaching back into their Smashing Pumpkins/early Nirvana/Band of Skulls-esque first EP Pikul and debut album, Carnavas.
If hearing them on record isn’t enough, they are also currently on tour. I actually saw them perform a week and two days ago at the Ace of Spades in Sacramento, which is roughly the size of the Fillmore West and was completely sold out. They were quite fantastic, having brought the venue to life and really connected in a “yin and yang” moment with the crowd; Aubert himself was quite shocked at the connection, having been taken aback by the turnout even though it was “seriously our [their] first show in a year and a half.”. They even managed to take my mind off of the fact that I was standing for three hours elbow-to-elbow with bodies in a crowd in a button-up shirt and long pants on a hot spring night in the xeric capitol city of California; after the fact, when my feet screamed and calves ached in protest of walking back to my car, I realized just how long it had been… but Aubert and his gang managed to keep me utterly “tuned-in and turned-on up” to that point in a fashion I didn’t think was possible.
Silversun Pickups will be playing live on the following dates:
June 1: Kjee Summer Round-Up, Santa Barbara, CA May 25: Gorge Amphitheater, George, WA
June 2: The Shoreline, Mountain View, CA
July 5: The Moose’s Tooth, Anchorage, AK
July 14: Downsview Park Allen Road, Toronto, Canada
July 20: Firefly Music Festival, Dover, DE
September 1: Xfest, Calgary, Canada
September 2: Sonic Boom, Edmonton, Canada
For tickets and all other information, head over to the band’s main site.
For a good time, listen to Neck of the Woods; it DEFINITELY earned its “perfect” rating, I’ll tell you that much.