Once an unknown band that lurked in the shadows while releasing tracks anonymously, with its full-length debut Sir Sly shines a light on an immense talent for creating infectious pop hooks. You Haunt Me is in a sense the band’s proper debut album, with all four songs from the Gold EP re-released here. With the added space for exploration that a long player allows, Sir Sly expands its sound and fine-tunes its synthesizer-based indie pop.
“Where I’m Going” serves as the album’s appetizer, its rumbling bassline and Hayden Coplan’s heavy kick drum creating a dark aura that persists throughout most of You Haunt Me. From there the album is dominated by that same gloomy mood looming over the catchy dance grooves. Singer Landon Jacobs brings emotional resonance to the songs through vocal nuance, whether singing with a hip-hop cadence on “Gold” or in a soft, slow croon on “Ghost.”
Perhaps ironically, the title track has by far the most uplifting sound. Jacobs sings of having trouble moving on and finding his purpose after a failed relationship (“Still dreamless, now that you’re gone I think I lost my fight”), but those revelations contrast the warm jangling acoustic guitars. In the chorus, Jacobs even adds the requisite “oh-ohs” to the line “I’m never gonna let you go,” as if his inability to detach is a badge of honor.
Though at times Sir Sly wades into shimmering dance pop (“Found You Out”), the group is at its finest when creating a dreary ambiance. “Floods” sounds like Jacobs is singing while staring out of a rain-splattered window. The mechanical march of “Inferno” gives dark undertones to its hip-shaking grooves. The unnerving distorted bass thump of closer “Helpless: Bloodlines Part II” sounds like one of Trent Reznor’s concoctions circa The Downward Spiral.
Sir Sly’s weakness is a tendency to avoid straying too far from their formula: murky tones over electronic beats with big sing-along choruses. Jacobs’ lyrics are at times facile, but they are concerned as much with rhythmic flow as with the depth of their introspection. Even when it’s predictable, You Haunt Me never fails to deliver attention-grabbing hooks and rhythms that demand propulsion. Eclectic experimentation will likely come later. With this debut album, Sir Sly lays down a strong foundation, announcing their presence with eleven somber yet danceable earworms that are sure to set the hype machine on overload now that listeners actually know who is making the music and anticipate the follow-up.