Silversun Pickups
Better Nature


3.5
great

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
September 29th, 2015 | 202 replies


Release Date: 09/25/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Silversun Pickups craft an immensely beautiful and slightly safe record that will prove to be their most divisive one to date.

It was bound to happen eventually. Silversun Pickups – a group that has made a career out of highlighting the contrast between Brian Aubert’s wispy, trembling vocals and the band’s heavily distorted atmospheres – has finally embarked upon a journey for lusher, more electronically vibrant pastures. This doesn’t come as a surprise, considering that Swoon’s ‘Growing Old is Getting Old’ dabbled in gorgeous synths, and Neck of the Woods saw both ‘Here We Are’ and ‘The Pit’ engorge in electronically-infused backbeats. Better Nature is really just the next logical step for the band, as they flesh out those abstract ideas into a beautiful, fully-realized album. While it may dwindle in comparison to the lofty expectations laid out by its two predecessors, Better Nature is far from chump change, and it qualifies as yet another gem in this group’s already illustrious discography.

A lot has been made about the band allegedly playing it close to the book this time around, and it is true that the stylistic shift towards pop-rock terrain leaves Better Nature feeling a tad bare. None of the riffs cut to the bone the way that ‘Panic Switch’ once did, and at no point will you ever feel the desire to head bang or pump your fists; it just isn’t that kind of album. Where Swoon would sprawl across stunning and elegant rock soundscapes, and Neck of the Woods would revel in dark atmospheres full of haunting incantations, Better Nature feels relatively normal – an adjective not all that flattering when it comes to music that’s allegedly experimental. This album is full of those “almost” moments where a track builds and builds, then ends anticlimactically. The abrupt conclusion to ‘Latchkey Kids’ comes to mind, but sadly that’s not the only occurrence. For a record that isn’t bound by the rigid confines of earthly instruments – and any sonic heights are attainable – it all tends to feel just a little bit underwhelming.

With that said, Better Nature is a powerful statement by the band. They prove their versatility with the explosively optimistic and dynamic closer, ‘The Wild Kind’, while proving that they still have a firm grasp on their traditional roots with the true-to-form ‘Nightlight.’ In fact, each of these songs encapsulate opposite milestones – with the former showcasing just how successful their experimenting can be (seriously, this track is breathtaking), and the latter being sort of a resume-to-date of everything Silversun Pickups. One of the best things to unravel with this release, though, is the emergence of Nikki Moninger on vocals. Her contributions – particularly on ‘Connection’ and ‘Circadian Rhythm’ – are clear highlights and add a whole new dimension to the band’s typically one-track approach. In fact, ‘Circadian Rhythm’ could easily serve as the pinnacle of the entire experience. It feels like the emotional epicenter, possessing the mysteriousness of a moonlit walk in the forest while retaining a certain campfire-esque element of familiarity. In short, it is one of the best songs they’ve ever recorded. ‘Tapedeck’ follows it up and is easily the most creative track on Better Nature, with shifting tempos and diamond-in-the-rough passages such as “no mistake, the ghost in me has found a home.” Despite the makeover, Silversun Pickups clearly haven’t forgotten how to deliver a knockout dose of awe-inspiring beauty in their work. If anything, they’ve gotten even better at it.

Better Nature will undoubtedly fall into the “transitional record” category on a lot of listeners’ radars, mainly because it sacrifices a good amount of their core appeal without shattering the massive expectations set by zealous, foaming-at-the-mouth fans. It’s easy to get swept up in personal expectations – especially regarding a group you’re passionate about – and to push your vision for the band instead of accepting their quirks and imperfections. It’s sort of an unfair predicament for the artist, but that’s often the nature of the business. In this case, the album is too conventional to satisfy those who were introduced to the band through Carnavas or Swoon, yet it’s not quite spectacular enough to take off in the huge way that many thought this record would. What Silversun Pickups have done is settle into a sweet spot. It might not sit well with everyone involved, but it takes nothing away from what this is: a gorgeous if slightly safe album that proves this band hasn’t lost their edge when it comes to making captivating music.

We can shake the ground
With our voices so loud
It's how we operate...




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Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
September 29th 2015


24006 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Must Hear Tracks:

Circadian Rhythm

Nightlight

Tapedeck

The Wild Kind



Recommended Tracks:

Latchkey Kids

Ragamuffin

Connection



If You Have The Time:

Cradle

Pins & Needles

Friendly Fires

Digging: Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile To The Surface

RivalSkoomaDealer
September 29th 2015


1600 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

This was really boring to me.

Digging: Algiers - The Underside of Power

Feather
September 29th 2015


3688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Will check out soon. I just listened to Neck of the Woods multiple times yesterday while studying

Arcade
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2015


8321 Comments


"Lazy Eye" is such a tune but idk why i've never bothered with a full SP album

Digging: Tyler, the Creator - Scum Fuck Flower Boy

JWT155
September 29th 2015


13467 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Great review as always Sowing. Swoon remains as my favorite Silversun LP.

cliiint
September 29th 2015


1299 Comments


I'm all for "lusher, more electronically vibrant pastures" but only if it's evenly served with "riffs" that "cut to the bone". I will of course listen as this band has never disappointed but, based on this review alone, my expectations are very low. Good review regardless

Muppelope
September 29th 2015


1399 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album was really great, but unfortunately their worst so far. My expectations were too high.

Nomos
September 29th 2015


1367 Comments


Nice review. I'll have to check this out tonight...always liked these guys without ever being a huge fan.

WatchItExplode
September 29th 2015


4815 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I don't see how this band could ever rise above their 3.5 plateau for me. They are kind of a one-trick-pony. That said, sometimes their sound just hits the spot.

TwigTW
September 29th 2015


2574 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

*Wipes foam from mouth* . . . Very disappointing at first, but it's growing on me.

Digging: Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live at Royal Albert Hall

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
September 29th 2015


15282 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review Sowing! Definitely did a much better job than I did describing how this album sounds...something I need to work on overall in my reviews. Also this album review reads a bit higher than a 3.5...I'm not sure if it's because you're trying to defend the album or if you only really hit on one negative part of the album. Either way it was nice to see your opinion in review form

Digging: Pretend - Circular Rsoning

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 29th 2015


24006 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Could grow to a 4 because I love these guys so much, but I don't think it's objectively better than a 3.5. It's pretty, even stunning at times, but it never really takes off and capitalizes on the atmosphere it builds. That part of things is mildly disappointing, but if you think of this the way the rating was intended, "great", then I think it fits my description aptly. It's a very good album that falls just short of excellence.

JWT155
September 29th 2015


13467 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Agreed sowing, this is a very enjoyable album, I just feel that it never reaches that next level.

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
September 29th 2015


15282 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

For some reason I always think a 3 is average on here even though a 2.5 is obviously average...so I tend to rate albums a half step higher than they should be on this site. Either way I completely agree that 3.5 makes the most sense rating wise for this album

JWT155
September 29th 2015


13467 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I used to as well, I've done 1 pass through my ratings to lower a bunch but I need to do that again soon.

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
September 29th 2015


15282 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I might need to do that soon haha...glad to see I'm not the only one with this problem though

JWT155
September 29th 2015


13467 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I mean it's a rational way to grade something. We grow up in a society where 69% on an exam is below a C and failing. 6/10 is unacceptable. Takes a while to transition to the idea that 6/10 isn't that bad.

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
September 29th 2015


15282 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Makes sense when you put it that way. Also the more I listen to this album the more it grows on me honestly...I've played it so many times that my roommate is now a SSPU fan hahah

PostMesmeric
September 29th 2015


684 Comments


These guys are getting darker with each new LP. Still pretty good, though.

Sinternet
September 29th 2015


13807 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Surprised how much I liked it tbh as I kinda hated their last one

Digging: Valerie June - The Order Of Time



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