Tuesday, October 18, 2011

REVIEW: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Tape Club

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Tape Club

Creative works are perceived and judged by a version that has been toiled over, constructed and deconstructed multiple times; final drafts of creative works only expose one side of the original idea. The mark of a great artist is the progress the person, or persons, made in reaching the final product, for the true testament to skill is not just what a person produced in the end but how the person made it there. Recognizing, considering, the genesis of a creative work is not only a greater determinant, it also reveals more detail about the work. Tape Club is a magnifying glass on Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin’s diligent songwriting process, exposing the steps they’ve taken to be the band we know today.

Since their formation in 1999, SSLYBY have released three full-length albums, so it seems only natural to wonder whether or not the band has any other recordings hidden away somewhere (the b-sides, the demos, etc.). The 26-song Tape Club is an answer: a collection of album track demos and unreleased, non-album track demos and b-sides documenting the band’s journey over the past 12 years. From the band’s anthem for their local hometown minor league baseball team (“Cardinal Rules”) to their experiment in electropop (“Yellow Missing Signs”), there’s a breadth of material to digest; it’s a real treat to travel through the entirety of the band’s career, seeing songs like Broom’s “What’ll We Do” begin life without its heart of piano or Let It Sway’s “Phantomwise” begin as a delicate, mellow song.

Some of the unreleased b-sides here are some of the band’s best, most enjoyable songs. “The Clod and The Pebble” is a beautiful, quite elegant ballad that floats ever so gently on the warm, sustained notes of a cello. The interweaving guitar harmonies of “Coming Through” that guide the song to its conclusion suggest it could have made one hell of an album closer. The final three tracks (“Letter Divine,” “Bended,” “Bastard of Rome”) provide a serious 1-2 punch, knocking it all out of the park with “Bastard of Rome.” “Letter Divine” displays the band’s strength in writing choruses that gush with a sprightly spirit. “Bended” is quite divine, grand even, with its lush vocal harmonies that move with ease from soothing to chilling; it’s one of the most beautiful songs the band has written, accentuated by its graceful leap from tranquil acoustic guitar to fuzzed-out electric guitar bliss. “Bastard of Rome” rolls in on a thumping bass riff, winding up tension in the verses to unwind quickly in the choruses – choruses that see the band letting out some aggression while still staying on point.

Compilations can sometimes prove to be rather misguided, but Tape Club avoids the pitfalls of a nostalgia-fueled recollection of the past, carefully pieced together from the band’s archive of more than 100 recordings. It reveals an influence of ‘50s pop as well as a hint of an underlying AM pop influence, and it showcases the band's eclectic range of influences without feeling like a scatterbrained mixtape. Despite its length, the album manages to be rather concise, capturing a broad but detailed history. As a 26-song collection of demos, b-sides, and song sketches, you’re bound to come across less compelling moments, but, here, those moments are hardly noticeable, especially as it’s really more about being afforded the opportunity to see how SSLYBY have grown and matured. They have always possessed a certain ebullient character, playing with a carefree, cheerful attitude that makes their music both accessible and something of a panacea for the bad times – all on full display here. Tape Club is a fascinating trip through the evolution of one of America’s most charming, unassumingly great indie rock ‘n’ roll – and indie pop – bands.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - "The Clod and The Pebble"

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - "Bended"

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - "Bastard of Rome"

Tape Club is out today on Polyvinyl. You can hear the whole album below.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Tape Club by Polyvinyl Records

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