Posted on May 25th, 2009 (1:52 pm) by Katherine Parks

“Could I be anything you want me to be? If so, is it meant to be seen?” quips Silversun Pickups’ frontman Brian Aubert on ‘Panic Switch,’ the first single off their latest album, Swoon. On Swoon, the quartet breaks down the door of predictability and crushes every expectation. If you don’t believe me, listen to the album, and witness just how far this unassuming band has come with this record. You will, well, swoon.

The intro hook of ‘There’s No Secrets This Year’ had me thinking I was listening to a Slipknot record as opposed to the usually brooding Silversun Pickups. Don’t be fooled for a second, though, because the heavy, frenzied guitar melts into the background almost as soon as it appears, blending masterfully with the drumming talents of Chris Guanlao.

With a really cool addition of strings on ‘The Royal We,’ Silversun Pickups brings their sound to an entirely new level while still retaining Aubert’s signature smoky vocals and truly badass, charged riffs. Really charged riffs, in fact. Aside from that, prepare yourself for an aural assault by Guanla’s drumming. Oh, and don’t forget Silversun Pickups’ clever lyrics, “I swear we fell in love, but not the first time.” I’m willing to bet you fall in love with this track on the first listen.

‘Growing Old is Getting Old’ speaks for itself. This ambient track has an undeniable air of honesty laced within very chill strumming and a steady, almost disco-sounding bass; it’s the perfect song for a rainy day when you just want to mope around, curl up on the couch, and hide from the rest of the world.

Kudos to you, Nikki Monniger, whose bass playing is showcased on ‘It’s Nice to Know You Work Alone.’ She’s there on the intro, and splits the track wide open for her Pickups counterparts. Aubert’s [surprisingly] clean, deep, dark electric guitar and brutally honest lyrics define the track. Case in point: “It’s the beauty of confession / In the sound when the levees break”. (Come on. Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the subterranean Amazonian climate for the past few years, it would be difficult to deny what might have inspired that line.)

I think it’s great that on Swoon nearly every band member, intentionally or not, gets to crack open at least one track on their own. “Draining” is Chris Guanlao’s chance to demonstrate his prodigious talents as a drummer, and he does that at the first tick you hear. Overall, the track is really mellow, and very dark, but nevertheless beautiful. It carries the signature Silversun Pickups sound with the addition of classy orchestral strings, which help to make Swoon soar.

“Do you think I’m sort of alive? / Should I set these motives aside?” questions Aubert on ‘Sort Of’. The track starts off with a buildup of frenzied synth, layered around Aubert’s crafty guitar, Guanalao’s stylish drums, and Lester’s fluttering keys. Nikki Monniger’s bass style brings out the dark edginess on ‘Sort Of’. Sounds pretty intricate, right? Without a doubt, this song has a clear techno vibe, which could probably be likened to overall theme of The Bravery’s self-titled debut. If there is a track on Swoon to illustrate Aubert’s full capabilities as a guitarist, ‘Sort Of’ is at the top of the list. Lyrically, it questions what happens when you choose a particular path with a decision: “When there’s fire on the ground, should I turn my whole world upside down?” Okay, Brian, you have my attention. This song is definitely going to be my go-to song the next time I’m at a crossroads.

By titling one track on Swoon, ‘Substitution,’ was Aubert implying that he was abandoning his signature, synth-like riffs for more stripped-down, basic riffs? Either way, ‘Substitution’ is a breath of fresh air against the darker style of the rest of Swoon, in particular because of the bright riffs throughout the track. It’s a great song, and shows just how creative and varied Silversun Pickups’ collaborative efforts can be. Again, Aubert is there, with his unrefined vocals, spewing brutally honest thoughts and life lessons in my direction. I’m not dodging out of the way, though. Instead, I’m sitting down and listening to what he has to say.

As I said before, it’s awesome how you can hear each band member’s contribution on Swoon. For example, on ‘Catch and Release’, it’s Joe Lester’s keys (and perhaps sampling?) that brings something special to the table. Again, there are strings on this track, too, making a good backdrop for Aubert’s soft strumming and truly heartbreaking lyrics. But don’t think this song is just another emo anthem—anything but, in fact..

‘Surrounded (or Spiraling)’ is an adventurous and unique way to end the album. “Is it perfect in our little hell?” quips Aubert on Swoon’s closing track. With lyrics like that, my attention has been glued permanently to the group, and Swoon has found a place in my heart.

With Swoon, Silversun Pickups push their creative boundaries, and experiment with more synth, heavier riffs, and beautiful orchestra strings than on their 2006 debut, Carnavas. I know I’d love to see this group pull off some of these new songs live; if they tour this year, I’ll be at the barricade, pleading for someone to push the panic switch.

Swoon was released independently through Dangerbird Records on April 14, and a deluxe version is available through Dangerbird Records’ official site, www.dangerbirdrecords.com

Track List

1. There’s No Secrets This Year (5:33)
2. The Royal We (4:47)
3. Growing Old Is Getting Old (5:53)
4. It’s Nice To Know You Work Alone (4:45)
5. Panic Switch (5:42)
6. Draining (4:54)
7. Sort Of (5:28)
8. Substitution (4:39)
9. Catch and Release (4:39)
10. Surrounded (or Spiraling) (4:45)

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