Just in time for school to let out and summer to take hold, power pop indie darlings, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, have decided to send everyone off to summer camp, humidity, and bad family vacations with their latest LP installment “The High Country” (Via Polyvinyl Records) on June 1st. Founded nearly a decade and a half ago in a Midwest dorm room, original members Will Knauer and Philip Dickey fearlessly lead their group through a new manifestation of their high-energy sound, which, according to their press release, attempts to capture the intensity of their live performance.
From the start “The High Country” drips with carefully plotted distortion and vocals that remain doggedly loyal to the sound familiar to their fans. There are tambourines, everything tries hard to maintain the whimsy of youth. The third track, “Full Possession OF All Her Powers” is a perfect example of this as it sing-songs through *maybe* nonsensical lyrics, and does all in its power to navigate its listener through some sun-lit afternoon prairie scape in mid-summer, or maybe through a date-night scene montage from some indie movie. “Madeline” follows up with an attempt at haunting removal, a down beat in the track listening meant to raise the hairs on your neck in some longingly mysterious way. Then, we get more distortion.
Musically, SSLYBY can’t be faulted. It’s about as professional as anyone could hope for. High quality, well-mixed and planned out. Not one instrument sticks out and all sounds are distinctly equalized. Even the blips and whooshes of low-fi familiar guitar distortion are seamlessly smoothed into each track. Although independently styled, the professional structuring of their craft and production can not be denied. This is not an album where a listener might stumble across any sort of pentimento or curiously arresting flaw. Long gone are the days of amateur exploration for SSLYBY. If nothing else. “The High Country” is a careful project and evidence of a group that has created long enough to accomplish a certain precision that only comes with practice and time.
For my own ears, the stand-out song from this album showed up halfway through the track list. “What I Won” is arresting, and seems like the best example of everything SSLYBY is attempting to accomplish in this album. It’s filthy with drums that are equalized by ultra dream-pop vocals and centered around guitar (think Warpaint vocal musings with a touch of Insesticide-era Nirvana).
To close, I would absolutely maintain that “High Country” is an album which is pleasant and cohesive, although a bit too polished and formulaic to be called innovative by any stretch of the imagination. However, if any listener is seeking a well-plotted track list that goes very easy on the ears, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin has produced exactly what they need.
“The High Country” is available via Polyvinyl Records on June 1.