By Lindsay Zoladz | 8 October 2010
According to their press materials, Eternal Summers are from “the forests of Roanoke, VA,” which means they are well-versed in the business of falling trees that nobody hears. And that seemed to be the unfortunate fate of their terrific debut EP, Eternal Summers (2010), if we don’t take into account the fact that I’ve listened to it more than almost anything else that came out this year. Not only are its infections hooks endlessly repayable, but the eight-track EP is roughly as long as one Joanna Newsom song, so its appeal for me this spring was largely one of contrast with the other, more bulky records with which I’d been occupied. Eternal Summers was a refreshingly taut, pocket-sized affair; hardly a note felt excessive or out of place.
The question Silver poses is whether or not the band can retain that energetic sense of concision over a long-player, and the lead-off track is as emphatic a “yes” as we ever could have hoped for. Clocking in just shy of the two-minute mark, “Disciplinarian” is a bona fide pop miracle. Nicole Yun coos and wails and strums a guitar; Daniel Cundiff keeps a steady, driving beat—and there’s not much else you need to know. There’s something childlike about the band’s simplicity, but it’s never overly sentimentalized, and “Disciplinarian” embodies that guilelessness brilliantly: Yun punctuates her lines as if she’s got her hands on her hips (she’s pigtailed too), as the titular epithet looms over the otherwise monosyllabic lyrics like a big word a kid’s just overheard and inserted awkwardly but defiantly into her vocabulary, repeating it tirelessly, tracing each syllable, and then, when the chorus hits, stretching it out into a vowel-y, gloriously nonsensical wail. “Disciplinarian” struts through two verse/chorus progressions like a melodic temper tantrum, then after a quick guitar riff that seems about to amp up for a bridge, it makes like a Guided by Voices song, and—abruptly, perfectly—ends.
The good news is that, not three minutes later, Silver offers up another light-hearted gem (the appropriately titled “Pogo”) that is almost, if not quite, as good as “Disciplinarian.” But then, of course, the disappointment: the rest of Silver doesn’t even come close to the energy exerted by these two songs (which, combined, add up to about three minutes of music). The middle of the record certainly isn’t bad—Yun’s vocals are particularly sweet on the melody of “Safe At Home”—but it isn’t terribly exciting either. While Eternal Summers wasn’t all pogo-jams, it made much better use of the contrast between faster and slower songs. Silver lounges around for too long, and its slower songs all start to feel too samey.
Things do pick up with the last two tracks: the ramping tempo of “Silver,” and, especially, the almost-six-minute closing number “Bully in Disguise,” the latter of which, despite its placement, is the emotional center of Silver. Gone is the exuberant defiance of “Disciplinarian,” replaced with a more downcast and defeated sense of opposition: “I never said I had all the answers.” Pogo time is over. But we shouldn’t despair. Because even though Silver is not quite the taut, energetic half-hour of power that the band’s promising EP had me clamoring for, it still has some pleasant surprises up its sleeve. And most importantly, it offers sporadically brilliant flickers of what I loved about this band in the first place: their knack for stripping away all the incidentals and cramming pop perfection into suitably compact packages.