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.
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
, 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...