Monday, June 1, 2015

Album Review: The High Country by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

The musical journey of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin continues in The High Country, an album some say is the culmination of all previous works. The High Country remains unafraid of being poppy, but in this case, it's much closer to noise-pop than the polished indie pop the band generally exudes. The goal was to bring the album closer to the energy of the band's live shows, and it definitely has made this soft-voiced band turn a corner.

From the fore, the new approach is presented on "Line on You," which is still very congruent with their previous work, just with more feedback. The pop-riddled "Step Brother City" has something of a Strokes sound to it, but with the usual aspects of an SSLYBY song: the melodic howls and gentle vocals, and the occasional sprinkling of cutesy lyrics such as "all the good songs and poems are all about you//and all the bad ones too." That particular blend of sounds continues with "Goal Mind," which you could easily imagine Julian Casablancas scream-singing on- but that's not the resulting sound at all. 

Next, "Full Possession of All Her Powers" reminds us what SSLYBY have a talent for: lilting power pop with the shy indie twist. "Full Possession of All Her Powers" is easily one of the best songs on the album, telling the tale of a confident but flawed woman and the man with a crush on her, in a very upbeat manner. It gives way to the pleading "Madeline," the slowest and most tender track on the album, with a Simon and Garfunkel quality.

This album was built for vinyl, something few albums do these days. Not only are the liner notes clearly designed to be a sleeve or vinyl insert based on the layout, but "Madeline" ends side A and the grumbling "What I Won" picks up side B. I rarely make first-time album purchases on vinyl because I feel like vinyl is more of a commitment, but seeing the care they put into making "Madeline" the soft end of side A and "What I Won" an intro to side B, I really wish I'd gotten the vinyl instead. "What I Won" has more of the gravelly guitar sound the band promised on "Line on You," as well as an even more noise-pop style mumbled lyrics. "Trevor Forever" is loud and proud and more punk than anything you'd expect from the rest of the album. That is, unless you count the guitars on "Song Will," which come off as pretty rough (in the good way).

"Foreign Future" and "Magnet's New Summer 'Do" are both straight out of the SSLYBY handbook, with their signature guitars very much at the front of the stage. 

Finally, "Total Meltdown" brings everything together: the feedback, the soft vocals (but this time with audible lyrics, which wasn't a given on every song on The High Country), the SSLYBY guitar, the well-thought arrangement of lyrics, powerpop and just a dash of punk. "Total Meltdown" is very bright, with the line "I'm not afraid" being the mantra of the piece. As it fades out, one can't help but feel both satisfied by the album and hungry for more. 

SSLYBY have come a long way from 2005's Broom. Their sound is miles more refined and their album layout is impeccable. A part of me was afraid they would lose the sincerity of the earlier albums, but the sincerity is ever-present. Tracks like "Madeline" aren't being produced by anyone else. I also feared they'd begin to lose the catchiness they had with tracks on Pershing, but "Full Possession of All Her Powers" is just one catchy tune on the album. Really, there's nothing to fear with The High Country. After listening to it, much like the narrator of "Total Meltdown," "I'm not afraid."

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin are an indie pop band from Springfield, Missouri.

The High Country is out June 2nd and can be purchased here.

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