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Swoon by Silversun Pickups (2009)

“Lazy Eye” was the first song that caught my attention by the Silversun Pickups, an alt-rock band from Los Angeles. The song, which was released from their first full-length album Carnavas way back in 2006, was cheerful, catchy and uber-chill, with a 90s vibe reminiscent of bands like the Smashing Pumpkins or Our Lady Peace.


Listening to that upbeat tune in Pandora a handful of times was enough to make me pick up their latest album, Swoon, on a whim during a shopping trip about 45 minutes from home. As I listened to the first few songs in the car on my way back, I was skeptical of the band’s ability to hold my interest. With lead singer Brian Aubert’s grunge-like whispers and the slightly overbearing, ebbing melodies from various sound manipulation instruments, I found the lyrics blurring into one another as I got lost in eerily haunting melodies.

As I listened to the album countless more times, each song became increasingly addictive, the lyrics soon gaining remarkable depth. I spent hours on the Internet reading the lines from each song in time to the music, soon memorizing the entire CD and completely entranced by the band’s soulful complexity.

The album begins with an introductory song entitled “There’s No Secrets This Year.” In my opinion, it’s the perfect start to the CD -- fast-paced and energetically performed with Chris Guanlao powerfully owning the drums and cymbals. As the music fades into the next song without pause, I’m forever struck with a feeling of openness and instant familiarity toward the band, pulled into a world of whimsy, nostalgia and grippingly emotion.

“The Royal We” keeps the pace with fiery, influential lyrics and a sense of uncertainty in a time of war. The song pays homage to past and present wars in which many have died -- and for what? It speaks of war’s implications on Americans, which could be prevented if not for the stubborn and greedy nature of our own government’s self-serving agenda. Known as the “Royal We” -- they watch our every move, forever in control of our fate.

Quite ideally in light of the previous song, the album gears down a bit with “Growing Old is Getting Old.” if you didn’t have an ongoing fear of death before hearing this song, you very well may afterward! As it picks up toward the end, the song gives way to hope and the eternal road to self-perfection.

Imagine my surprise when I got to number four on the album, “It’s Nice To Know You Work Alone,” and discovered the hauntingly delicate voice of back-up singer Nikki Monninger. Taking on every other verse, Nikki makes her presence known in a subtle way, harmonizing beautifully with Aubert in the duet, which ends in a burst of elevated passion and fire that will subconsciously bring back memories of an old flame.

“Panic Switch” shows a softer, more unclear side to the Silversun Pickups. The lyrics suggest an ongoing battle against the music industry, which strives to mold them in their typical money-grubbing way. It contains a somewhat frenzied, fearful pulse that will leave you anxious about the band’s future -- will they strive to stay true to themselves and their style, or do they become pistol-whipped, like so many other bands?

I think it’s important to note that as the album continues, it embraces a variety of serious topics relatable to everyone -- political warfare, musical woes, relationship plights, self-awareness of both despair and growth.

The next song, “Draining,” is a softer approach to a relationship gone wrong, and I find that it’s the perfect “intermission” between the intense music and lyrics of the songs immediately preceding and following it.

Although the last four songs on the album are quick and as catchy as always, they continue to illuminate a darker, more contemplative side of the Silversun Pickups. “Sort Of” covers the personal strife of someone unable to communicate his or her feelings or thoughts. Lost within themselves, they are begging to feel something -- anything -- but are lost in apathy, hoping to escape through some monumental event.

“Substitution” is one of my all time favorite songs because the chords appear happy-go-lucky and playful, but there is an aching depth in each verse that tells a different tale. It captures the ongoing struggle and battered feelings of someone deliberating their value -- someone at the brink of their life, ready to jump and embrace whatever chaos may envelop them.

Of course, then we have the ever-random “Catch & Release.” Its seductive rhythm and slow, swaying beats make the song one of my favorites on the album, even if it does suggest a one night stand -- drug use optional!

Surrounded by love or spiraling out of it? That’s what the Silversun Pickups will leave you pondering at the end of the day, right before you realize how exhausted you are from the poetic nature of their music and its new, long-lasting relationship with you.

Reviewed by Cassie Behle 4/1/12

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