What is so attractive about neon lights? They shine bright in the night with an unprecedented flouresence, and when sitting in a car going down a main road, eyes all dart to the brightness, glimmering and begging consumers to buy their product. While small towns all have their fair share of neon, nothing compares to the American city. The largest city on the western coast of this country, Los Angeles, is sure to host a slew of neon lights. The city, arguably, puts out the most entertainment and popular culture of any city in the world. Deep inside the entertainment scene lives a small, rustling band called Silversun Pickups.
Silversun Pickups are:
Brian Aubert- Vocals and Guitar
Nikki Monninger- Bass and Vocals
Joe Lester- Keyboards
Christopher Guanlao- Drums
The Pikul EP is Silversun Pickups’ first recording endeavor, forming as a group of friends who shared a common interest in music and began playing live shows immediately. Aubert found his first experiences as a frontman when the band played their first live shows. The band says their first live shows went terribly and they played terribly, not sure how they could work as a band. Slowly, they wrote songs that soon gained a small fan following and out of those songs; they made fan favorites which later became polished versions on the Pikul EP. The EP is the band’s first real recording experience, only ever playing live.
Their music is a clear mesh of the musician’s different tastes, drawing from indie pop, grunge, and even some acoustical music, although for the most part the guitar stays electric. Although the EP is only 6 tracks in length, the band delivers over a half hour of laid-back, relaxing music. For the most part, Aubert is the standout musician, with the rest of the band adding to his sound. His singing never gets all that powerful; he lays back with the music. His range stays pretty similar throughout. The real standout about the band is their ability to take one or two riffs and make the song never get bland or uninteresting by gaining more and more intensity throughout the song, giving an almost progressive feel about the songs. The songs also gain angst throughout, combining grunge and indie into their very own mix. More grunge influence comes from the growling distortion of the guitar, still maintaining a good clarity but giving that gritty feel that the grunge scene so often portrays. The guitar is almost always the center of instrumental attention. Monninger plays excellently on bass, but she never intends to stand out and sticks low under the bass. The keyboard only adds a bit of a different sound to some things, and usually is impossible to notice. According to the band, many fans at live shows think the keyboard is actually some strange effect on the guitar. Guanlao is only there to keep time and nothing more. He fills where needed, but he is definitely a background drummer. Together, they create catchy, original music with their own original sound.
The album opens brilliantly with Kissing Families. This song is featured in the Alt/Indie listening party, and for good reason. The song opens with Aubert singing with faint guitar strumming. Bass adds in, sticking to the roots and along with drums. Faintly, keyboard helps with the melodic structure. Nikki Monninger makes a short singing appearance, breaking up Aubert’s verses. Immediately, the relaxed indie pop feel of the band comes across, putting the listener in somewhat of a trance. The guitar riffing is excellent, coming across as a bluesy strumming pattern. A cello adds in on the second verse to add strength to the bass. Here, Aubert's vocals blend in with the sound of the band, showing Silversun Pickups' live experience really helps them. This chord progression continues in the bass while the two vocalists sing a harmony before exploding into a much more energetic version of the chord progression. A slightly overdriven guitar holds out some long tones as the rest of the band continues to pick up steam. A post-rock build occurs, remaining on the same riff while more and more sounds enter, getting louder and louder. However, there is no real climax, as the song reverts back to the relaxed feel from the beginning of the song just before a climax would normally hit. Aubert half screams his vocals, another stylistic idea of his, gaining more emotion throughout songs.
Another standout is the closer, All the Go Inbetweens. The song is a slow builder, starting out the most relaxed of all the songs on the album. Light drums and a bassline open the song. A light guitar plays a melody over the lush soundscape. The guitar turns to a clean electric and plays long tones. Aubert enters with sparse vocals, again beginning in his restrained, relaxed voice. The guitar picks up a bit of steam and has a slight vibrato to the tone. The guitar breaks up the verses, taking a short, simple solo. Another verse enters with more guitar tracks adding on top, creating a bit more interest as the main chord progression continues. One must wonder what the band is going to do, as their style is to build on the chord progression, but the song is 7 minutes and by the time the second verse enters, it’s only 2 minutes. Well, a synthesized keyboard enters to hold a chord while Aubert sings, and then the riff changes, giving a bit of a low distortion about the guitar. The guitar overshadows the rest of the sounds. Aubert's voice, again, blends in with the rest of the band, a technique mastered well by the band. The song remains in this strange indie-grunge mixture, as the song gains intensity that goes almost completely unnoticed until after the chorus. Guanlao hammers his drums and the guitar gets it’s loudest. Once again, before reaching a climax, the song drops out all except for bass. More elements add on, and the chord progressions to a suspension filled beautiful progression. This progression stays for a while, before reverting back to the intro, giving a sense of closure about the song. Everything heard before repeats, going through the chorus and the verse. From here, the song goes into a mini-song format, ABABCA. The song closes on a held bass note.
All in all, Silversun Pickups create relaxing indie music with a strange blend of grunge like distortion, giving them an original sound. However, nothing really stands out as being spectacular. The songs sound relatively the same and the EP goes by as one big song. Breaking up the songs, there are some great moments, but they are hard to pick out from the rest of the EP. If relaxation calls, this band is a great choice.
...All the Go Inbetweens