Right away, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin’s new album hooks you. “Line On You,” the first track on “The High Country,” captures SSLYBY’s sound – a catchy amalgamation of indie pop, ’90s alternative and roots-style music. Vocalist Philip Dickey’s voice seems to be made of air as it floats over static, pumping bass and fun guitar riffs.
After showcasing their laid-back, chill style on both “The O.C.” and “16 and Pregnant,” and working with Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla on their 2013 album, the Springfield, Missouri, natives’ sixth studio album exhibits a heavier side of their music. This time around, SSLYBY have stepped up their angst with moody ambience reminiscent of garage punk. Amidst a mesh of noisy, grungy instrumentation drifts Dicky’s drowsy alto crooning “I got a line on you." And so the stage is set for the summer soundtrack you have been craving since Wavves’ “King of the Beach.”
SSLYBY alternates between quasi-emotional laments and upbeat, chill indie numbers. The second track, “Step Brother City,” takes things down a notch. The mellow guitar work frames bemoaning lyrics such as “Love isn’t easy but it sure is hard enough/And I keep messing things up.” It is the same angst from those wretched teenage years that still haunts us all years later.
“Madeline,” another noteworthy requiem, serves as the soft spot on the album. It is almost a cozy respite from the raw energy of the rest of the LP, if it weren’t for the broken “come find me Madeline” that appears after every other line. And if we are going to assign archetypes, then “What I Won” plays the James Dean spotlessly — complete with moody, Radiohead-esque ambience and sardonic wit. It is a portrait of ’90s alternative.
The band revisits their “Sink/Let it Sway” success from 2010 with “Full Possession of All Her Powers.” The melody is lyrical, almost standing on its own, and the vocals clear. It has traces of a Thin Lizzy-meets-Americana groove to it that adds an interesting variety to the album.
“The High Country” is an LP that can certainly hold its own in the overwhelming flood of indie records that permeate today’s music scene. Its simple yet striking lyrics and charged orchestration (such as discordant and distressed “Trevor Forever”) create a feel-good record that is short, sweet and youthful. For those searching for summer tracks to accompany their sun-filled shenanigans, here is a throwback treat to traditional indie. SSLYBY follows their own rules — and it’s working.
SSLYBY will be playing on June 20 at Rose Music Hall.
MOVE gives “The High Country” 3.5 out of 5 stars