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Design By Humans
Published On: Sun, May 27th, 2012

Silversun Pickups: Neck of the Woods

Silversun Pickups
Neck of the Woods
(Dangerbird Records)

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For their first two albums, Silversun Pickups embraced distorted guitars and vocals that leaped from androgynous whispers to gritty shouts. With Neck of the Woods, this Californian quartet has dared to clear away some of the fuzz, revealing a darker but more mainstream sound.

Producer Jacknife Lee has a tendency to strip artists back so they come across as more polished, and that’s certainly not a negative quality in this case. Silversun Pickups haven’t laid off the distortion entirely, but they’re not to My Bloody Valentine levels of layering either. Instead the guitars are more restrained, giving frontman Brian Aubert’s lyrics a chance to shine.

With titles like “Skin Graph,” “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings),” and “Dots and Dashes (Enough Already),” the tracklist reads like a sampling of this year’s horror movies. If the lyrics are a bit grim, they’re saved by Aubert’s gentler vocals, particularly when he’s joined by bassist Nikki Monninger. “Mean Spirits,” for instance, has such singalong lyrics (literally “I love to play and sing along”) that even the melancholia turns catchy. Drum machine makes “Here We Are (Chancer)” a bit dancier than usual, and electro elements lend “The Pit” a bit of New Order’s spirit.

Make no mistake: Silversun Pickups are still doing their own thing and won’t be abandoning guitar-driven rock any time soon. But now that they’re on their third album, this band has figured out what they do well and are now honing their craft to grand result.

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Silversun Pickups: Neck of the Woods