Listening to Silversun Pickups is an adventure. Whether for the first time or the fiftieth time, there’s something about this band that captures you. No description of their sound or ability offers any hints about the journey that will commence, though, and most of their attached labels seem obtuse.With a handful of singles, multiple EPs and a few studio albums, however, they’ve had a lot of practice in perfecting their sound. Not to mention, since the band’s formation in 2002, they’ve had a lot of time to establish a reputation which carries on with their new album, Neck of the Woods. Neck of the Woods definitely upholds that Silversun Pickups sense of adventure, with joyful checkpoints along the way.
One of those checkpoints, a lack of collision, is common throughout the record. The listener’s journey is never hindered by a dominant guitar or emphasis on lyrics. All the musical aspects are treated as equals and utilized as such. “Skin Graph,” the first track, is a perfect example of this. This song begins with a leisurely introduction but eventually shifts into a melodramatic riff. When the lyrics come into play, space is given for placement but the music is never overpowered, nor the lyrics challenged. Other musical checkpoints include exaggerated loops and refrains, and the addition of non-traditional tools for mood creation.
A period of waiting occurs before “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” digs deep, but the mixture of sounds sets the tone while serving as a useful transition. Even in “The Pit,” auto-tuned piano strokes help set the atmosphere. On the lyrical side of this journey, a couple checkpoints ring true. The first has to be Brian Aubert’s voice. He has a rugged and raspy voice, but something about it becomes sensual. It’s unique and, with the help of female vocalist Nikki Monninger, aids in creating Silversun Pickups’ unusual demeanor. The most complete checkpoint, however, is the lyrics themselves.
Without a particular theme, this album complements itself with stories and descriptions. On one side of the spectrum, “Bloody Mary (Nerve Ending)” is a tale of rebirth with words like, “You barely cried/but you made it out alive/and I’m so proud/that you’re in my hands now.” On the other end, “Simmer” hints at hopelessness with stanzas like “A silent curtain/still the world’s still grinning/I need a strong arm my friend/to keep me from simmering.” The most intriguing, however, might just be “The Pit” with its story of despair. Strong statements like, “I’m sure you recognize my noise and you heard about the Pit/been told to be afraid of everything that lives within/but it’s much worse where you are/so will you go for it?” and “somebody somewhere/will clean out your wounds/with dirty little fingers/we’ll bury the lie” suck you in and keep you glued.
With that said, I believe this album will do well for the band, propelling their success forward again. Straying off the beaten path just enough to capture a few wanderers but sticking to traditional methods keeps this band fresh and their music alive. Their lack of commitment to just one genre also keeps them around. Neck of the Woods is a keeper, and proves they have a little something to offer everyone. It’s brilliant by design, something Silversun Pickups seem to have perfected.