Review Summary: Silversun Pickups go big, ambitious, and come out on top.
Is it surprising that in today’s musical climate that an indie band would have the most anticipated album of 2009? Really, it shouldn’t be. When Carnavas
sent the music world into a tizzy with nasty tags of “90s revival” and “Smashing Pumpkins copycats” being thrown around like a baseball at a Yankees game, Silversun Pickups stood taught and delivered one of the most promising debut albums and best live performances from any “indie” band, period. After essentially disappearing through 2008, scraggly looking Brian Aubert came out and said they were recording a new album, with all kind of wild accusations about how awesome the album would actually be. So, it’s here. And is it any good?
From the start, Swoon
introduces the new and improved Silversun Pickups, with a newfound fetish with infusing the infectious melodies of Lazy Eye
with the frantic pace of Well Thought Out Twinkles
. Look no further than lead single Panic Switch
to get the new, fuzzier, dynamical version of Silversun Pickups. Crazed, tortured, and seemingly somehow, refined, Swoon
sets a solemn, “grooving” mood that’ll challenge you to stand up and dance. And best part about the new and improved Silversun Pickups? They’ve matured, and have already made their “get huge” album. That album is, by far, Swoon
. Best part? They never had to sell out.
But why is this album their defining album? Because, simply it’s such an ambitious record. Mystical, confusing, and perfectly refined with a bit of orchestra, less overused distortion, and better rhythms makes Swoon
that much more matured and extravagant than their debut. Despite it’s attempts to end the 90s revival tag, the album throws back to that decade, filled with overly-ambitious albums like The Fragile
, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
, In Utero
, and OK Computer
. Silversun Pickups’ sophomore album tries to make all their misgivings from the debut history, eliminating their over usage of distortion, repetitive structures and chords, and boring songs. Brian Aubert and the gang pack rhythm, soul, and inspiration into each of these songs, nothing being slapped together in a lazy or haphazard manner. From the little dreamy bit at the end of There’s No Secrets This Year
to the strings and wild dynamics of The Royal We
and the vapid emotion of Draining
it’s all very heartfelt and moving. They’re a very special band, one of the only ones who dare to stretch outside of the indie hole built by Modest Mouse and Interpol, and it seems that they’ve stretched the boundaries of their genre with all of this inspiration and soul. Which is something other bands don’t have.
But of course we can sit here and talk about how it has soul and is inspirational and is ambitious. What does it sound like? Mix the surprisingly shallow layers of Carnavas
with some orchestral arraignments, and that jazz-fusion, rhythm-based drumming. And, of course, Brian Aubert’s unisex vocals. The songs are all lengthy, and change rhythms and sections quickly, sticking to no structure, and leaving the album seeming unpredictable but not haphazard, like perhaps The Mars Volta. The songs switch from a riff-laden chorus with Aubert’s vocals soaring at skyscraper heights (that could totally play in a music video with Aubert singing with wind blasting in his hair), to a quick guitar solo that expands into just a simple picked outro. But what makes Swoon
a little surprising is songs like Substitution
which mix the indie folk Death Cab for Cutie sound with traditional Silversun Pickups aggression. But the album’s highlight by and far is The Royal We
, an intense, swift-moving track with an orchestra, subtle electronics, and rapid dynamic changes. The guitars are much more distorted than normal, and ricket away at your speaker’s drivers. But don’t fear, the song’s quick-moving dynamics keep that distorted guitar addicting in the chorus. In the whole album, you'll consistently find hidden little noises and samples designated to set the mood. That's how deep Swoon
The songs don’t just sit unhappily together on a track listing, either. The transitions are seamless, and all carry the album’s solemn, sad, and emotional tone. There’s an echoing vivacity in all the tracks that simply makes them instantly memorable. There isn’t a huge radio smash on the record, but likely the quality of all the songs will slowly chip away at the radio until the masses realize how truly awesome Swoon
is. It has the potential to be the huge album of our decade, and I’m not exaggerating. Aubert’s vocals are not for everyone, but in a decade where Smashing Pumpkins refuse to give alt fans their dose of fuzz, Silversun Pickups fill that gap damn well.