Silversun Pickups

Better Nature

Written by: TL on 30/09/2015 14:32:37

Modern rock history is full of bands that have tried to combine rock instrumentation with electronic elements, yet few have done so as convincingly as the Los Angeles quartet Silversun Pickups, who established their name by going two for two with their frighteningly consistent first albums "Carnavas" (2006) and "Swoon" (2009). It was a surprise then, that 2012's "Neck Of The Wood" had considerably less of a memorable impact, making the look forward to a follow-up filled with some measures of anxiety.

With "Better Nature", which dropped this past Friday, the band answers the bell and looks back in form, however. Right off the bat, the opener "Cradle" reintroduces the band's shadow-filled soundscape, where low-end bass and synth boom and pressure the capabilities of weaker sound systems, while guitars, keys and lighter ambiance swirl in and out of each other. Brian Aubert's hazy, childlike vocals - which bear considerable similarity to Billy Corgan's (Smashing Pumpkins) - complete the picture, chanting in sync with staccato keyboard notes, while the buzz of bass and guitar ebbs and flows.

Fans of the band will quickly feel at home then, on an album where it seems like the group has increased focus on the hook-aspect of their sound, not being afraid to embed some chant-friendly chorus repetition in the centre of their songs, while they pursue their inventive mixing of effects and layering of grooves and melodies in the background, unfolding these with increasing power. Another good example is the deceptively impactful single "Nightlight", which establishes a nice sense of spaciousness right from the beginning, only to circle back to an 'oomphy', bass-founded call/response refrain with increasing power. And then there's "Ragamuffin", a less likely single choice, but a highlight all the same, courtesy of its cinematic, dreamwave-style growth and the affection heard on one of the rare occasions where Aubert briefly raises his voice.

These are but three picks from an album where the songs generally stand strong individually. "Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)" for instance, both by giving bassist Nikki Monninger a bigger role vocally, but also by allowing some subtle rays of brightness into the band's world. On songs like this and "Connection", you feel that the eerieness that frames the band's sound is less heavy than previously, ultimately making "Better Nature" feeling like their lightest album to date, even if it is only by a tiny increment.

This only makes a difference, however, in a project of ranking the band's albums, where "Swoon" and "Carnavas" arguably still edge themselves in front of it. The key word is "edge" though, because it tells you that Silversun Pickups are still back in strong form, dishing out a sound comparable to few, on an album where even the less striking songs manage to keep your attention fixed in the band's richly textured musical universe. So make a date with your finest hi-fi equipment, lean back, close your eyes, and get caught up in "Better Nature". It comes highly recommended.


Download: Cradle (Better Nature), Ragamuffin, Nightlight, Tapedeck
For The Fans Of: Foals, White Lies, Veto, Lovedrug

Release date 25.09.2015
New Machine Recordings

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