Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods

There is little doubt that Silversun Pickups faced a tremendous task in attempting to live up to the Grammy-nominated success of 2009’s album Swoon. Neck of the Woods is quite an epic at nearly an hour in length, yet it reveals a maturing band which is not in any way lacking progressive material.

Album opener Skin Graph rises from a sombre and unassuming first few phrases into a beautifully bombastic track of erratic percussion and edgy guitar riffs. It is clear even from this first track that the band have done much work on controlling the effects of their dynamics; there is a well controlled and fluid movement of expanding and contracting energy at play. The album’s lead single, Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings), is a swelling wall of shoegaze. It moves from an introductory synth line into a collection of catchy chorus hooks, and becomes comparable to the dreamy aesthetic of M83. Brian Aubert’s instantly recognisable vocal style clearly suits the song’s tone, and is highlighted well through lyrics such as “If we can stay here long enough / We can play with Bloody Mary / She can chase us through the dark / Activate our nerve endings”.

Here We Are (Chancer) is a soulful track grounded in Radiohead-esque drum programming and expressive bass lines. The dynamics are again built-up tremendously well, with subdued piano chords and shimmering guitar lines complimenting Aubert’s ghostly vocal tones. The anarchic track which follows, titled Mean Spirits, is centred around an industrial bass fuzz. The accompanying guitars grow dirtier and edgier, building to a heavy riff which resembles a hybrid of Muse and Tool. The chorus is heavy as well, but it remains catchy and unapologetically chaotic.

The electronic beats of Simmer erupt into a wall of guitar progressions and vocal niceties. There is a tangible element of swagger in this track, and the powerful guitar work is reinforced by lyrics such as “What am I aiming toward, is a fight that never ends / What am I searching for, a light to shine again”. The new wave electronica of The Pit is heavily reminiscent of New Order. Its cold bass lines and crisp shrieks of guitar reverb create an uplifting ambience, through which Aubert highlights the raw emotive power of his vocals.

Neck of the Woods proves that Silversun Pickups have greatly improved the dynamics of their expression, while at the same time progressing with an eclectic incorporation of musical styles. There are splashes of math rock, shoegaze, new wave, alternative rock, electronica and industrial rock in this musical pastiche. Despite this, the group have maintained their style and have developed both on musical and thematic levels, forming an LP which asserts that they do not intend to stop progressing.