When having to describe a band like Silversun Pickups to friends, I’d portray them as a collection of different pieces of art. I know that sounds weird, but it’s rather true if you think of it. Each one of the California-based quartet’s albums (including EPs) evokes different feelings and moods that are just as colorful as their album art. Even with their last EP, the three song Seasick, can perpetuate a visual stimuli of dark greens and blues. Their last album, 2009’s Swoon, is a beautifully colorful album; enough so that it helped nab them a Best New Artist Grammy nomination – regardless of when their first album Carnavas was actually released.
So, three years since their last album, exactly are we getting with their third full length album Neck Of The Woods? You get the Silversun Pickups you come to expect gray-scaled; creating the darkest, longest, and most riveting SSPU album to date.
“Skin Graph” is a fast-paced welcoming into the album that helps showcase the ever so eclectic drum fills by Chris Granlao (He’s all over this album). “Mean Spirits” has Nikki Monninger playing a nasty-ass bass line underneath an upbeat anthematic jam. Their first single, “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings),” is the perfect middle ground between their two biggest songs “Lazy Eye” and “Panic Switch” by being both ethereal and bombastic. “Here We Are (Chancer)” is a down tempo synthetic duet of sorts that showcases the vocal talent of both Brian Aubert and Monninger.
The vocals on Neck Of The Woods is just as good as every other release to date – with one notable change. On previous material, whenever vocalist Brian Aubert climbs his range, it is accompanied by a sort of growl. This is apparent on older tracks like “Lazy Eye” and “Future Foe Scenarios,” if you need to get an idea of what I’m talking about. Instead, when he hits his higher notes, its rather clean, and dare I say beautified, like on the track “Make Believe”. I do miss the growl, as it still gives me shivers down my spine when he would hit those notes (especially live). But the new, cleaner, and refined vocals really do show off how iconic and gorgeous Aubert’s voice really is.
The biggest addition to the traditional Silversun sound is the electronics. Now, electronic sounds and textures have always been a part of their successful rock formula, but it seems like it’s taking a larger step forward this time around. Songs like “Simmer,” “Dots And Dashes (Enough Already),” and especially “The Pit” all have the electronics of Joe Lester shine in some pretty nice sections. Not like he has been or is being ignored by any means, but his presence, if subtle before, is now coming out in gorgeous sections throughout.
Like I mentioned earlier, this is the longest Silversun album to date – and it shows. Just under an hour long, the eleven song album averages out their songs to about five minutes and thirty seconds a song. The shortest song on this album (“The Pit”) is four minutes and thirty-nine seconds long, it being one of four songs that are under the five minute mark. Because the songs are so long, it creates an almost deja vu whilst listening. You’ll hear a section or bridge over and over again to the point that you could swear that song is on repeat. If this is something that bothers you, then Neck Of The Woods might not be a desired listening experience. However, if you’re a SSPU fan, then this is just another walk in the park.
On my first listen through of Neck Of The Woods, I thought it was this year’s Simple Math, in the aspect of only being played once, then put aside. However, each time I had to go back and listen to it (whether it be for this review of for plain recreation), I found myself being astounded each playthrough. Neck Of The Woods never lost it’s shape, colors, or sounds, making it the most consistent Silversun Pickups album to date. If you hate long songs, then this album obviously isn’t for you. But when it comes down to those songs, old fans and new will find something, if not many things, to praise.
Final Grade: A
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Go Download: The Album, “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)”