Silversun Pickups: Better Nature (Album Review)
By Rob Watts. Follow @RobWattsOnline
One of the coolest things about a new album by Silversun Pickups is that it reminds you of an old friend who comes to dinner—once again, with even more interesting stories to tell since last time. The Los Angeles-based quartet’s ever-expanding sound comes accross impeccably on their fourth full-length album, Better Nature which comes out on September 25th via their own New Machine Recordings.
Produced once again by Jacknife Lee (who helmed their previous effort Neck of the Woods), their sprawling cinematic sound pours outward from every track, as evident from the opener Crawling (Better Nature.) Lead vocalist and guitarist Brian Aubert‘s shimmering guitar tone and unique vocal range open things up with a familiar feel but as it progresses, the album takes you to new places unlike any of the band’s previous releases. Connection and Pins and Needles pull out all the stops, with tight guitar riffs, in your face drum and bass rhythms, and of course Joe Lester‘s haunting ethereal backdrops.
Friendly Fires is a slow-paced declaration, followed by lead-off single Nightlights, which is probably the closest track that bares resemblance to anything found on 2012s Neck of the Woods. Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance), the latest single employs bassist Nikki Monninger‘s vocals as she trades verses with Aubert in a prominent manner. The track, as well as much of the album, feels like a hint of an 80s throwback—but just a hint. Tapedeck, probably the quirkiest of the collection, showcases drummer Christophen Gaunlao‘s upbeat tempos quite nicely as the song throws the listener all over the place as the track turns off every which way. Latchkey Kids falls back on familiar SSPU territory with straight-ahead musicianship, while Ragamuffin walks you down dark pathways once again with its ominous opening chords. The Wild Ones plays the listener out wonderfully with each musician utilized perfectly, which is really what we’ve come to expect from this band.
With stellar production, new recording techniques, gang vocals, the implementing of Monninger’s vocals to a greater extent and an overall recharge from the band as they move forward—taking reign of their own career, this is an album worth supporting.
Better Nature Out Sept. 25th. Visit SilversunPickups.com
I saw the announcement just like everybody else, but sadly I didn’t share in everybody’s enthusiasm on the band’s Facebook page. Silversun Pickups, one of my all-time favorite bands, is releasing “The Singles Collection” on February 25 via Dangerbird Records. Ending their 10-year relationship with the indie label, this offering has contractual obligation written all over it. Essentially, it’s an album fulfillment according to the band’s contract, an all-too-familiar practice within the recording industry, thus pushing a rather inferior product onto fans. The sad truth about labels who release “Best Of” “Retrospectives” and “Greatest Hits” collections, is that it’s an implied notion that all of the band’s greatest work is now behind them. With very few exceptions, almost every band or solo artist has a “compilation” album on the market. But what used to be seen as a mark of accomplishment—a band who’s career spanned well over a decade, with more than 8 albums to their credit—is now merely a vehicle to milk fans (fanatical or casual) of their hard-earned money.
Silversun Pickups have 3 incredible albums to their credit (Carnavas, Swoon and Neck of the Woods) along with their debut e.p. release “Pikul.” Each studio album is better than the next in my opinion. Why on Earth would you want to tarnish such amazing artistry by splintering your albums up into an 11-track restrospective? This will only encourage big-box retailers such as Target and Walmart to eliminate stock of the studio albums and display only, the “Singles Collection” in order to reserve shelf space. In the end, it’s always about money…and the label’s greed and desire to trade on a band’s good name.
Seeing as Silversun Pickups is one of my all-time favorite bands, both live and album-wise, I’m highly disappointed to see their label take the cliche route so early in their career. Especially by putting out an inferior collection. In addition to the 10-previously released tracks on “The Singles Collection”, a newly recorded track called “Cannibal” has been included. Upon a few listens, it’s fine for what it is, which is a song thrown together in a hurry for the sake of giving fans of the band an excuse for purchasing the album. A good portion of fans will automatically like the song, simply because it’s a new release from the band. Whether or not the song is indeed inferior to their usually stellar offerings, will go widely ignored to fans who are just anxious for new SSPU music. The label depends on fans such as these. “Devils Cup” an unreleased B-Side is also available to those who purchase the vinyl box set version of the collection. To make a fan feel less ripped off, why not add a few rarities to the mix such as the non-album tracks “Mercury” “Table Scraps” and “Currency of Love”? How about “Not Dark Yet” from the Bob Dylan tribute album? This would make for a more appealing collection than just a gathering of already owned material.
I’m sorry, but this “Singles Collection” is a lazy and cliche move on the part of the band’s label (Dangerbird Records.) I only hope that what’s happened to countless other bands after releasing a premature Greatest Hits collection, doesn’t happen to one of the few remaining rock bands worth talking about. (Rob Watts)
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*This review was originally published in April 2009
“Swoon” is a near-perfect, if not immaculate modern rock record. The follow-up to their debut full-length “Carnavas” could have fell into the dreaded category of Sophomore slump, but instead, created a new template for future bands to live up to. Much darker than its predecesor, “Swoon” makes use of trippy and fuzzy guitar work blended with atmospheric overtones. The songs themself venture into unpredictable directions while Brian Aubert’s vocals are clearly the strongest they’ve ever been. Nikki Monninger’s bass lines are immense, however her vocals are limited to back-up this round, as opposed to the last album and ep. Chris Guanlao’s drumming is the true driving force behind tracks such as “Panic Switch, Surrounded (or spiraling) and The Royal We.” Joe Lester however is the unsung hero in SSPU, as his synths on each song, although modest, are absolutely mesmorizing. All ten tracks deserve to be listened to as a complete album to really feel the full effect of the artistry. The brilliance of “Swoon” is a testament to a band that doesn’t overthink it or take themselves too seriously. Hopefully Silversun Pickups will continue on with this philosophy for many more albums. (Rob Watts)