Review Summary: "Nothing's made to last these days."
What made Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin’s debut album Broom
such a delight was its simple charm and beautifully unassuming melodies. Sure, it was home-recorded in a pointedly lo-fi manner and slightly derivative of bands like the Shins and early Apples in Stereo, but there was something inspiring about these three Missouri kids pulling off some truly gorgeous indie pop with a miniscule budget. It meant the songs had to be good
, not fluffed up with studio tricks, and they were. The songs on Pershing
were just as solid, no doubt, but a more confident SSLYBY began to lose some of that production innocence and amateur sensibility that colored their debut, seeming instead to be searching desperately for that hit single to put them over the top. Now we finally have The Indie Band Making Good – Death Cab’s Chris Walla behind the boards, a honest-to-God studio to play with, and a summer release date, the perfect time to listen to a band as breezy and lighthearted as SSLYBY generally sound. Unfortunately, what they end up with sounds more like contemporary Weezer than something you might find at the back of your local discount record store, something that was perhaps not groundbreaking but definitely yours
Too often here SSLYBY sound like someone else’s band, or maybe Chris Walla’s wind-up power-pop toy. Of course, everything sounds good – each song here could be a potential hit single for the band or any other songwriter, and with Walla’s beefed-up production sharpening every cymbal hit and making the guitar chords more pleasant and audible than ever before, it’s a fundamentally flawless indie pop record. It’s just so unexpectedly generic; from the faux-anthem “Banned (By The Man)” to the cringe-inducing lyrics of “In Pairs” to the by the numbers designated single “Sink/Let It Sway,” nothing here leaves much of an imprint. Agreeably shiny guitars? Check. Soothing vocal harmonies? Check. Handclaps? Check. It’s inoffensive, sometimes fuzzy, other times crisp guitar pop, tunes that are a dime a dozen on any college radio station. Those who haven’t heard the band before will find everything agreeable enough, if a little indistinctive – what was the fuss all about, anyways? Then again, only the lovely, acoustic ballad “Stuart Gets Lost Dans Le Métro” takes a page from the Broom
handbook, right down to the opaque name, hushed vocals and delicate melody.
If it wasn’t for that sole offering, Let It Sway
might seem the work of an entirely different band, one content to offer up bland sing-a-longs like “All Hail Dracula!” and the truly bad one-two combo of “Animalkind” and “Phantomwise,” songs that lack even a modicum of the above average catchiness that keeps the rest of the record afloat. Occasionally SSLYBY will recapture the magic solely on the strength of their not inconsiderable songwriting chops – “Everlyn” is one of the group’s best love pleas ever (the completely surprising guitar solo is a plus), and bookends “Back in the Saddle” and “Made To Last” are two of the strongest tracks on the record, particularly the latter’s wistful tone, so appropriate as the brightest days of summer begin to fade. It’s a shame, because as SSLYBY have continued to expand their sound the genre that they were a few years late to has already grown past them. James Mercer is off doing things with Danger Mouse; Ben Kweller was indulging in alt-country last go-around; most of the Elephant 6 bands are either off getting freaky with themselves (Of Montreal) or spacing out (Apples in Stereo). If the band doesn’t start catching up to their peers, they’re going to end up a lot more like their misbegotten namesake than they would probably prefer.