Review Summary: For years the word “shoegaze” brought with it the mental image of pink; perhaps you never noticed the silver in there too.
Early on in its new millennial revival, shoegaze had begun to separate itself from its 1st wave counterparts. We saw it embrace contemporary sounds and digital recording techniques, forcibly branching away from the distinctive alternative rock and pop roots of its origins and succumbing to more modern fads such as indie or post rock. So when a band in 2007 managed to homogenize the classic sound with the more contemporary, it offered a welcome marriage of an unnecessary divide. The Silver Album
, notably as a debut, accomplishes this almost effortlessly with an aggressive and sleek throwback to its own roots while taking full advantage of the age it was crafted in.
The Silver Album
feels very concealed and depressive throughout its entire run-time, focused on bathing itself in a melancholic vibe. The distortion and reverberation are as prevalent as you'd expect from an aggressive shoegaze album; repetition and droning disconnect from reality are staples of every song, providing no escape from the effects the band can put you under. This is probably one of the harsher sounding albums of its kind seen in god knows how long, without actually forsaking its enjoyment to prove that point. Yet despite how grating these Jesus and Mary Chain-like guitars can initially feel, they are very simplistic and easy to grab hold of, eventually succumbing to a sort of decadent support around the singing and leading guitar effects. It truly is palatable to a first time listener of any song. Once you are able to see through the grinding instrumentation you notice the pop elements are always there, constantly gasping for air beneath the rest of the mix. The Silver Album
truly is sinister in the way it smothers the twinkles and glitter with raw and grinding rhythms. It's refreshing, in a most masochistic way, to hear the genre pummel you with its lethal abrasiveness once again.
Yet the record still feels genuinely fragile and feminine through its dream-pop tendencies, offering a welcoming and almost romantic attachment to those who give it a chance to reveal its more naked attributes. The most obvious contributor to this are the vocals, as they are integral to the design of the record. Soft, mumbled and very feminine sounding, they succeed in applying the tried and true tactic of the genre; the angelic whispers that are a necessary to offset the extreme audio harshness surrounding them. And while this has almost become a requirement for these kind of bands, The December Sound utilize the melodies of these near lyricless vocals to their fullest to create a human instrument effect. Something that, again, had been mastered years ago but rarely replicated as perfectly in this day and age. The melody of the singing is strong enough to be considered lead in the mix but quiet enough to be absolutely buried in the rhythms engulfing it.
There are undeniable, but very intentional, similarities to a certain shoegaze record from '91 to be found here. But before you write this off as a complete MBV clone, acknowledge that its similarities are more of an awareness of what worked for the 1st wave of shoegaze while expanding on that sound and reforming it fit in the new millennium. One thing that helps differentiate The Silver Album
from others of the past is its intelligent embrace of space rock. A very notable example of this is the song “Drone Refusenik”, a definite highlight of the album. With its beautifully hypnotic and somewhat oriental guitar lead dancing alongside echoing vocals, the graceful subtlety is a necessary chance to to let the mind breathe. I dare say it is one of the strongest songs in entire genre, and one any fan should be willing to offer their ears to. The reason this space rock style fits so naturally in this setting is found when tracing the genre's roots. Bands often viewed as quintessential to neo-psych and space rock played a heavy and very underestimated influence in the formation of shoegaze, and The Silver Album
seems very aware of this by adopting many of these bands' distinct styles. By recognizing its heritage the album sonically traces itself back to what kick started it all, which is why having such a defining characteristic feels so successful.
Being released in 2007, the album was afforded very nice digital production values that allowed it to blend its layers remarkably well. The recording sounds as if the music was played in absolute suspension, with sound reverberating off into a seemingly massive recording chamber around them. You can almost hear distance in the music as if sounds are drifting from around corners or sneaking up from behind you. There is also a larger incorporation of digital effects then would be found on most 90's records. Synths and dense keys are often added beneath the rhythms to negate any silence and obviously don't feel dated in the slightest, and samples are used to add depth, albeit sparingly. The incredibly infectious “Kill Me (Before I Kill You)” utilizes a nice contemporary dance beat beneath its sliding guitar drones to a brilliant effect, blurring the lines between rave and rock.
This LP was an absolutely necessary revisit to the classic sound of its genre, without ignoring what the rest of the music scene had been doing in the years since. If there was ever anything to take away from this review, it would be just that; consider it the restate of the hidden thesis statement of my bloated introduction. The Silver Album
manages to simultaneously sound modern and vintage, while remaining unique even beyond those characteristics. A hidden gem in the alt rock world, and highly recommended.