Review Summary: What it loses in instinctive beauty, it almost makes up for in depth.
As brilliant records go, let's call Silversun Pickups' Swoon
something of an accident - by which I mean that its intoxicating nature owed little to minuscule artistic decisions and almost everything to the conditions that set it up. Carried away by waves of wrenching melody, and an aesthetic that begged us to abandon everything outside its wall of sound, Swoon
conjured the image of a band settling into a beautifully sweet groove and just allowing gorgeous choruses to spill out in their numbers. It would make sense, then, that 2012's Neck of the Woods
- though still drenched in the same evocative Pumpkins-laced shoegaze, and the familiar loud-whisper vocals of Brian Aubert - finds the LA rockers more restless, with a host of tangents to explore.
The sinister, distorted edge which gave Carnavas
their character takes centre stage once again, but this time out the focus shifts to using that atmosphere to darken songs that are considerably less straightforward both structurally and sonically. "Here We Are (Chancer)" constructs itself around an inconspicious beat but capitalises on the space it creates with deep, sparse chords. The ghostly backing vocals of "Simmer" help foster a foreboding texture which couples the band's normal momentum with palpable tension. "Busy Bees" builds ferociously from a simple opening motif to an engrossing climax. So these songs are Silversun Pickups songs, with a recognizable tone, but expanded, daring versions; they snap with similar vigour, but are less single-minded.
Neck of the Woods
is, as such, not really an album to drown yourself in like we did with Swoon
- it has a somewhat deliberated slant, and is more easily admired from a distance than its pre-decessor ever could be. "Make Believe" is lighter and more open than the band's previous work, employing the same techniques but bouncing on an almost carefree rhythm - until, that is, the chorus arrives and sinks into "I could never show you what you gave to me," a dichotomy which is not entirely new to a young discography, but has never felt as pointed as it does here.
And there are occasional moments on Neck of the Woods
which don't feel completely organic
, if you will - but, thankfully, they're usually good enough to be worthwhile. This is still an album you can lose track of time with, even if it doesn't go quite as all-out for the heart as songs like "Panic Switch" so boldly did. Silversun Pickups remain brooding, atmospherically heavy and really fucking intense, and Neck of the Woods
marks interesting territory in their development; it both stands its ground and stretches its legs without actually feeling like it's desperate to do either.