Album Review: Swoon by Silversun Pickups

13 Jun
ssp

Silversun Pickups bring the noise with Swoon.

Sophomore albums are tricky. So often a band hits the ground running with its first album and leaves fans scratching their heads on the second. Avoiding this is tricky; in a way it weeds the good bands from the pack. For their second full-length album, Silver Lake, California’s Silversun Pickups prove they are one that deserves to stick around.

The Pickups released its first EP, Pikul, in 2005, followed the next year by their first LP, Carnavas. The album was an indie success, reaching number one on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. It produced two top-ten singles on the modern rock charts with “Lazy Eye” and “Well Thought Out Twinkles,” and the video for the single “Little Lover’s So Polite” was directed by actor-turned-director-turned-rapper Joaquin Phoenix.

For their follow-up, the band did not disappoint. Instead of resting on the laurels (albeit underground laurels,) the band left the poppier side of shoegaze and got bigger and badder. Nowhere is this more evident than on the first single, “Panic Switch.” The track starts with frontman Brian Aubert’s fuzz-soaked guitar riff, exploding into a full-band audio assault. Driving bass meets with churning drums, and as the song reaches its climax, Aubert pulls his vocals into a near whisper, asking, “When you see yourself in a crowded room/Do your fingers itch?/Are you pistol-whipped?

The album’s heavier songs are certainly its strong point, but that isn’t to say that the album is all brawn. “Growing Old Is Getting Old” begins with a simple bass line accented by drums and ethereal keys. As Aubert gently croons, guitar and keyboard lines zoom by like static on a wire as Aubert contemplates death: “Maybe we’re sealed in silence/Maybe we feel the guidance/Maybe your own devices/Will keep you afraid and cold.

However, the album falls off at the halfway point. Songs like “Draining” and “Catch and Release” are a letdown after the previous barrage of noise and feel almost like an afterthought. The Pickups attempt to pick it up (pun intended) with “Sort Of,” but instead of the triumphant end the album deserves, Swoon closes with a sigh. Still, the front end of this record is strong enough to make the less memorable second half seem unimportant—no small feat.

It’s not easy to make noise a true art form, but the Pickups have done it well with this record. While your grandma will probably tell you to “turn that racket down,” Swoon will be your best friend all summer. After all, isn’t that what rock n’ roll is all about?

Standout Tracks: “Panic Switch” and “Growing Old is Getting Old”
Rating: 4 out of 5
Biggest Strength: Powerful instrumentation complimented by ethereal vocals.
Biggest Weakness: The second half of the album fails to match the intensity of the first.
The Final Word: Perhaps one of the best albums of the year, Swoon is a hard-rocking, thought-provoking album.

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