On their new album Neck of the Woods, Silversun Pickups enhance their angst-ridden, gothic sound while amplifying the consistently haunting quality their vocals and melodies intone. The dynamic intensity of this album sets it apart from many of their contemporaries and lifts it above a mere description as "unique," in lieu of their signature pomp and circumstance indie-rock antics.
The album begins with a somber tone, but easily slips into an up-tempo flow that is maintained throughout. Neck of the Woods is Silversun Pickups’ third studio album with Dangerbird Records, and they’ve once again blended stylistic nuance with a vigorous pace, fortified by Brian Aubert’s signature brooding vocals. A sense of maturity guides this well-crafted and aggressive album and will give listeners a nostalgic feeling for the anti-pop so many enjoyed in their high school and college days. Dare it be suggested, then, that this is “emo” for grownups?
Silversun Pickups really strike a balance on Neck of the Woods between angst and anger, catharsis and restraint, while making sure to entice new listeners and enfranchise loyal followers. These guys haven’t forgotten how to rock out without giving in to sappier tendencies that have steadily influenced the genre. Tracks like “Make Believe” highlight their gift for balance, tempo, and the art of building melodic and vocal intensity, also perhaps best exhibited on their single “Bloody Mary.” They excel at creating sonically asymmetrical songs and a distinctly organic progression and tone to the album that feels both raw and well-produced. Their trademark bombastic sound is refined here with subtlety streamlining their more non-linear tracks.
Though their progression is solid, they also dabble in synth-inspired techno more on this album than in the past. 80‘s/90’s rock feels apparent here, while the vocals are as individual sounding as those of Stephin Merritt (of The Magnetic Fields) or Claudio Paul Sanchez (of Coheed and Cambria)– coincidentally carrying with it the same “acquired taste” sense as well. This begs a mention of the inability to make out lyrics, which can muddle the flavor of the songs but does little to detract from the full landscape of the album as a whole. That being said, the techno beats they fool around with provide listeners an unexpected aspect of fun amidst the heavier tones on songs like “The Pit,” giving the feel of a top-down, midnight highway ride crossed with a step onto the set of Tron. They also seem to vacillate between these stylistic throwbacks to more methodical songs that build tension and heighten anticipation, as can be heard on “Simmer,” one of their more aggressive, and also more seemingly 80’s inspired tracks.
Neck of the Woods is a compelling reminder that bands can successfully blend personal expansion and experiments while paying homage to years gone by. Comfort zones can be broadened for both the listener and the band alike as subtlety employed here pays off with rewarding musical dividends. Though they don’t color too far outside the lines and if anything, tighten their screws and streamline their sound a bit, they still have a great deal to offer that will make this album well worth the listening to.