Some albums feel like they've been through a tortuous gestation period. They give you the sensation that they were dragged, kicking and screaming, through the production process; as a result, they never quite sit right. They're like a suit that wanted to be one size and has been altered – it never feels wholly comfortable. Others, however, feel like they're exactly the way they were meant to be.
Ah, the dream life of the young musician. Jamming in garages and dorm rooms, making up crazy band names just for the hell of it, playing for crowds of close friends in attics and skeevy little clubs, and maybe writing that gem of a tune that blows it all wide open. It’s a theme that has reverberated through pop culture like the ticking of a million practice room metronomes from Buddy Holly to Sex Bob-Omb.
After pulling double duty as producers and performers on their first two albums, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin handed the production reins over to Chris Walla, who fills the band’s third record with a mix of quirky, lo-fi gloss and nuanced arrangements. Last we heard from the Missouri natives, they were micromanaging the bejeezus out of Pershing, resulting in a pleasant but slightly belabored album that didn’t quite follow through on the promise of their 2005 debut. Let It Sway is a breezy pop record, though, shot through with jangled bits of folk, rock, and alt-country and devoid of the painstaking approach that made Pershing stumble.
A minute and a half into Death Cab for Cutie’s second album, the band -- after teasing us with the same hazy, lo-fi sound they’d perfected on their last release -- abruptly launches into the full-bodied pop they’d spend the rest of their career bringing into sharper focus. Let it Sway, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin’s third release, was co-produced by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla, and it begins with a similar trick. Album opener “Back in the Saddle” picks up where Pershing’s final track left off: all sweetly strummed acoustic guitars and hushed vocals.
Though Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin never quite achieved the hype or experienced the craters of their peers in the 2006 blog-rock takeover that never was, there's still something of a lingering pall over anyone involved with that whole thing that almost makes them guilty by association. It makes sense that, despite a band name that begged for attention, they kept their heads low: Their straightforward brand of retro (ca. 1995 or 1979) power-pop may never be trendy, but it never goes out of style, and when done with passion and monster hooks, it can still make inroads even with more outré styles becoming mainstream (see: Surfer Blood).
Stumbling down memory lane It’s been roughly two decades since the debut of Superchunk, Built to Spill, et al., but Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin nimbly carries their post-punk torch on their hook-laden third studio LP. Let It Sway is a feast of musical comfort food for the nostalgia-tripping slacker-chic children of the ‘90s. Title track and lead single “Sink/Let It Sway” thrums and pops like vintage Guided By Voices, and “Banned (By the Man)” may as well be “Teenage FBI, Part 2,” including the muted guitar tones and pinched-throat vocals.
Two of the more prominent themes of rock music in 2010 will undoubtedly go down as the rise of surf rock (Best Coast, Wavves, The Drums, Soft Pack, Surfer Blood) and the asserted dominance of Arcade Fire. Those two monolithic concepts, one of unbridled sonic joy, one of anthemic grandiosity, seem insurmountable for every other band, unless you’re the plucky young lads of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. Originally from Springfield, MO, the band’s third album, Let It Sway, represents a sort of resting ground between the two soundscapes.