Sometimes you have to listen to something over and over in order to hear the details. Neck Of The Woods, the third release from Los Angeles, California's Silversun Pickups, is that record. Whether it was the lyrics or a bassline that grabbed me, I found myself hitting the "repeat" button on songs over and over. Neck Of The Woods started taking shape in the notebooks of frontman Brian Aubert while the band was on hiatus. Aubert was traveling through unfamiliar towns, cities and countries, feeling isolated and introspective. When the band came together to begin work on the record, they all agreed they wanted to do things differently and began looking for a new producer to work with. In the end, they chose Jacknife Lee to help them take a fresh approach at recording. The band gathered in his studio, which is, incidentally, in Aubert's childhood hometown, and brought yet another layer of texture into the creation of the album: the terrifying prospect of growing up. During the recording process, the band allowed the songs to come together on their own, without trying to reign them in or use a formulaic approach.
I love this quote from the band regarding the sound and texture of the record: "We wanted the louder stuff to sound cranky." Oh, it does. Even the tiniest moments of silence have a buzz and a darkness about them.
Neck Of The Woods begins with a gentle, hazy, delicacy and builds into a musical bomb-raid siren in the first minute of the lead-off track, "Skin Graph." The haunting aural layers and echoes couple up with a hypnotic syncopation on "Make Believe" and continue on. The CD's first single tackles one of the most horrifying parts of everyone's childhood: how many times were you talked into looking in a mirror and saying "Bloody Mary?"
Within the cacophony of sound on "Busy Bees" we can detect a bit of The Cure. Is there anything scarier than a spooky sounding song with a chorus which may include children? Find out on "Here We Are (Chancer)." "Mean Spirits" is one of the best examples of filling every space in a song with some kind of sound. "Simmer" has a menacing quality about it from the start, with a spine-tingling, run-the Hell-away kind of feel. The band was certainly channeling New Order's "Blue Monday" through "The Pit," and I feel the vocal work on this song is the strongest of Brian Aubert's career.
"Dots And Dashes (Enough Already)" reminds me of what Depheche Mode or The Cure would sound like if they were attempting to play "surf rock." "Gun-Shy Sunshine" sounds like a danceable love-song performed in a hospital room, reverent enough with plenty of mechanically driven sounds. Each time I listen to the last song on the CD, "Out Of Breath," I have to follow it up with Ozzy's "Crazy Train." Grab your own copy of Neck Of The Woods and prepare to hit "repeat" over-and-over.