Neck of the Woods: atmospheric and haunting
Lizzy Schroff | Wednesday, August 29, 2012
There is pretty much no other pump-up song out there that gets me more amped than Silversun Pickups’ “Panic Switch” from their album “Swoon.” And on the other end of the spectrum, one of my favorite chill songs, “Booksmart Devil,” is on their debut EP “Pikul.” Their newest album “Neck of the Woods” struck a balance somewhere in between when released this summer.
Originally called A Couple of Couples, Silversun Pickups is an alternative indie rock band from Los Angeles, a sunny, lovely place where Joseph Gordon-Levitt falls in love with girls named after seasons. But I first listened to their album on a gray, cloudy day in South Bend with a rainstorm looming in the distance as I drove my car back to campus. No setting could have been more perfect. Their third full-length studio album captures an eerie, rather haunting note.
The album’s first track, “Skin Graph,” begins quietly, building up to the distorted guitars and upbeat tempo characteristic of the Pickups’ sound. But the song ebbs and flows through the quiet moments and punchy, hard-hitting guitar riffs.
The album continues with “Make Believe,” and singer Brian Aubert’s distinctive vocals ring against a simple guitar riff that builds until the sinister concluding harmony.
The album’s single, “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” is a definite highlight of “Neck of the Woods.” Apart from the distinctive ringing guitar line repeated throughout the song, the lyrics are chilling. “If we can stay here long enough/We can play with Bloody Mary/Say her name into the dark/Activate our nerve endings.” (Anybody else remember being dared as a kid to go into the bathroom and chant “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary” towards the mirror, only to run out screaming at the slightest noise?)
“Here We Are (Chaucer)” features a variety of instruments from electronic to acoustic and layers on harmonies to draw you into a melancholic atmosphere, evoking an almost Radiohead-esque style.
But the album jumps right into the heart-pumping “Mean Spirits,” featuring the familiar strong bass of Nikki Monninger that is so prevalent in tracks like “Panic Switch.” This heavy bass is another highlight of a later track on the album “Dots and Dashes (Enough Already).” The song has a great second half (is it strange to say that?) with a steady pumping bridge and a mystifying, echoing ending.
“Gun-Shy Sunshine” lingers between major and minor notes, heavy bass and electronics. The final track, “Out of Breath,” is aptly named. With the quick guitar riff, heart-beat bass line and building drums, I can almost picture myself running from the harrowing scene that produced the haunting mood of the previous tracks.
Aubert’s unmistakable voice and reflective lyrics, as well as the other band members’ instrumentations, continue to impress. Keyboardist Joe Lester really set the mood for the album, and I am pleased the Pickups stayed true to their grungy, often hard-hitting and distorted, gloomy style. It took me a few listens to really get into, but all in all, “Neck of the Woods” is a great, atmospheric album that leaves me wondering – what did the Silversun Pickups encounter in this eerie “neck of the woods?”
Contact Lizzy Schroff at [email protected]