Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stream: Silversun Pickups - Neck of the Woods

Dense shoegaze guitars and atmospheric synth effects fill "Skin Graph", the opening track of Silversun Pickups' third album, Neck of the Woods. The songwriting is dark and moody, giving the impression that you are lost in the woods and can be attacked at any moment. The cinematic approach is amplified with a screaming siren sound not unlike the one heard at the end of the trailer for Prometheus. It is somewhat unsettling and warns the listener that this is going to be a more adventurous album than their past efforts. The single "Bloody Mary (Never Endings)" is every bit as compelling as their breakout hit "Lazy Eye" and has a haunting chorus that ropes you in immediately. It is also a shining example of one of the band’s greatest strengths: their driving rhythm section. Throughout the record, the plodding bass lines from Nikki Monninger mix with the forceful drumming of Chris Guanlao to drive the record forward with boundless intensity.

With songs like "Busy Bees", it's still hard to avoid those Smashing Pumpkins comparisons; however, they are slowly but surely moving out of that shadow. "The Pit" shows them branching out into synthpop territory and gaining a welcome Depeche Mode influence. Much credit is due to producer Jacknife Lee (Bloc Party, U2, R.E.M.) for bringing out these elements without cluttering the sound spectrum. The record sounds radio ready without losing any of the vibrant dynamic range. "Out of Breath" closes the album with a rock assault that highlights the howling guitars and signature vocal stylings of frontman Brian Aubert. It demonstrates the great strides they made from their disappointing sophomore effort, Swoon - which in all fairness did earn them a Best New Artist nod at the Grammy Awards. Ignore the uninformative and scathing review from Pitchfork, Neck of the Woods is a satisfying sonic surprise.

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