Review Summary: "Neck of the Woods" is Silversun Pickups at their best yet, and a (very) early contender for album of the summer.
Silversun Pickups have spent their career being compared, perhaps unfairly in some cases, to The Smashing Pumpkins. While the distortion the 'Pickups spent their first two LP's indulging in may be comparable to the psychedelic buzz that defined the Pumpkins during their classic Siamese Dream era, the music of the Silversun Pickups has managed to never truly sound like a ripoff of their 90s alt rock precursors. Brian Aubert's voice is far too unique for that, and the charm and atmosphere of their albums has been wholly of their own artistic creation. Still, "Siamese Dream" may be the closest thing we have to compare "Carnavas" and "Swoon" to, but with their latest effort, "Neck of the Woods," Silversun Pickups have put forward an offering that should finally put the Pumpkins comparison to rest.
That isn't to say that the band completely refines their sound for their 2012 outing- rather, they turn down the distortion just enough to force their songwriting to stand on it's own. This turns out to be a good thing, as "Neck of the Woods" proves to be what is easily the bands most consistent, complete sounding album. These songs are meant to stand together, and the album is at its most enjoyable when listened to in its entirety. Most of these songs are replete with often subtle electronic touches, which compliments the bands competent instrumentation and soaring melodies in a way that should not be understated. From the surging spikes of sound in opener "Skin Graph" that propel the song along to the minimalistic boops and beeps which carry "Here We Are (Chancer)", the band has certainly found a way to make electronics into an interesting part of their arsenal.
In addition to this, the Pickups certainly haven't forgotten to rock, either. They spend the final two minutes of album highlight "Make Believe" rocking perhaps harder than they ever have before. The main riff here is amongst the band's most ear-catching, and drummer Christopher Guanlao makes his presence felt like never before, pounding out an excellently produced, song stealing performance. Other album highlights include lead single "Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)" which has one of the catchiest, most fulfilling choruses ever heard from the group, and "Gun-Shy Sunshine", which boasts an interesting structure, powerful melodies, and a subtle, yet undeniable guitar hook. Also of note is the performance of Nikki Monniger, who, as alwasy, lays down impressive basslines and strong backing-vocal performances on many of the album's tracks.
As a whole, "Neck of the Woods" sees the band moving in a positive direction, crafting what should hold up as their best album yet, as even though it may not have as many stand-out moments as their previous efforts, it is easily their most consistent release. 4/5 stars.
Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)