Artist: Silversun Pickups
Label: Dangerbird Records
Release Date: Tuesday, 2009.4.14
Long time readers will probably recall that upon discovering Silversun Pickups’ 2006 LP Carnavas I became fair addicted to it. Which mean that I anticipated last week’s release of Swoon much the way a jonesing heroin addict with cash in his pocket might await the arrival of his dealer.
I was not disappointed.
Swoon is everything that Carnavas was and more. It takes the dark, fuzzy sound that I loved in Carnavas and adds greater musical complexity and maturity. It also expands the scope of the sound, applying it to a wider variety of songs.
The album takes a new direction for the band right from the off with the energetic, percussion-driven “There’s No Secrets This Year”. It’s a fitting start for the album largely because it’s noisy and guitar-heavy enough to be a credible link to the bands previous songs, but different enough to mark a departure point for the band. This song bleeds nicely into the mid-tempo, yet driving “The Royal We”. (Side note: The transition into the bridge in “The Royal We” is one of the most perfect transitions I’ve heard in quite awhile. Then again, the whole album does transitions well, both within and between tracks.) The two set a noisy, dark stage, to which the rest of the album mostly sticks.
And while Swoon, like Carnavas and the Pikul EP before it, carries the band’s dark, noisy trend well, its strength really lies in how that sound is stretched and played with to create a stylistically diverse mix of tunes. A great example of this is “Catch & Release”, my personal favorite track off the album. It has a spare, wistful sound, eschewing a lot of the complexity of most other tracks on the album. Indeed, with its light strings, meditative lyrics, and only-subtly minor tonality, it’s about the closest thing to a light, airy song that Silversun Pickups have ever done.
And then there’s the closer, “Surrounded (Or Spiraling)”. While this song was initially a disappointment to me, it’s really grown on me. With its fuzzy but upbeat sound, it feels almost like Silversun Pickups doing an artsy cover of a Silversun Pickups tune.
Of course, some of the songs on the album just embrace the dark, layered, noisy, hectic sound that Silversun Pickups fans love so much. For that, I think there’s no finer track on the album than “Panic Switch”. It’s raucous and grungy while at the same time to have a sense of rollicking, smirking fun about it. And the lyrics have the same surreal, imagistic bent that has typified most of Brian Aubert’s work so far. (“Do you see yourself in a crowded room? / Do you think I’ll snitch? Are you pistol-whipped? / Will you step in line, or release the glitch? / Can you fall asleep with a panic switch?”) As with many Silversun Pickups songs, the meaning comes as much from Aubert’s expressive moan as it does from the words themselves. The net result is that, even though the listener doesn’t know what exactly Aubert is saying, they know exactly what he means.
I’ve often said that Sophomore releases are critically important and too often overlooked in the modern music scene. If I had had any doubts about the talent, skill, or creativity of Silversun Pickups, this album would have entirely dispelled them. Not only is it a better crafted and more mature album than Carnavas, it’s easily one of the best albums I’ve heard in years. I can’t wait to hear what the Silversun Pickups’ third album has in store for us, but until they get around to making it, I’m sure Swoon will tide me over nicely.
Okay, blog’s getting kickstarted again. Still not sure, after two-plus years of intermittent blogging what I want to do with it, but I’ll certainly do something.
Here’s one tenth of the best album I’ve heard in a couple years. It’s by Silversun Pickups. The song is called “Panic Switch” off the album Swoon. The whole album totally pushs my musical buttons.