Third album for the American indie rock, and it comes with a quite disturbing story to it as well. Main man, Colin Huebert, of the band was diagnosed with hyperacusis, a condition that makes the ordinary noise level of everyday life intolerable. That enough could knock out most ordinary people, but you can only imagine what effect it could have to a musician or any other sound related individual. Thankfully, that was not enough to make Huebert step away, and even though the break between the previous Siskiyou album, Keep Away The Dead, was quite long, the band is back with their newest album, Nervous, and it feels like a breath of fresh air for Huebert and co.
The main difference here is the vibe that this album transmits. Instead of the more lo-fi indie folk sound of the previous albums, Siskiyou find themselves tempering with a grand and almost baroque-esque sense in Nervous. It is mainly the rise of a certain ambiance that makes that effect so noticeable in the album. With the main atmosphere tilting towards more dreamlike territories, for instance in songs such as “Banks Accounts and Dollar Bills,” and with the great background percussion in “Violent Motion Pictures,” the music navigates through different modes. The mysterious tone of songs such as “Jesus In The ‘70s” gives place to laid back, almost chamber pop, parts such as “Nervous” and “Wasted Genius” and then to playful parts as “Oval Window.” The music always manages to stay enticing and interesting through the different offerings of Nervous.
Siskiyou still use the acoustic guitar and Huebert’s vocal as the foundation of their songs. In all the songs you can glimpse the underlying bones with the acoustic guitar’s sweet lines always present, sometimes with simple parts, as in “Oval Window,” or with a more upbeat and energetic vibe, as in “Imbecile Thoughts,” but always straight to the point. The voice on the other hand, swoops in with its whispery quality and gives great emotional depth to the music of Siskiyou. From the huge performance of “Jesus In The ‘70s” to the more open and expressive “Imbecile Thoughts” and to the more unconventional “Babylonian Proclivities” it remains always a focal point for the album. Few nice additions include the children’s choir in the opening song, building great contrast with the main vocals, as do and the unbelievable backing vocals of Tamara Lindeman in “Violent Motion Pictures.”
As always, Siskiyou will build around their foundation with their very strong rhythm section. The tracks can sound smooth when they need to, as it happens in “Violent Motion Pictures” and “Babylonian Proclivities,” and then give more drive and power to the songs, as they do in “Wasted Genius,” “Imbecile Thoughts” and in an immense way in “Jesus In The ‘70s.” With the electric guitar also making an appearance in key moments, throwing in leads and solos, with the ones in “Wasted Genius” and “Imbecile Thoughts” standing out, it also gives the more distinctive tones of the music, from the elusive lines in “Violent Motion Pictures” to the menacing parts in “Jesus In The ‘70s.”
This time around the instrumentation that Siskiyou is using might still be quite extensive, but it is not present in as many parts of the album. The great saxophone parts in the opening song and “Babylonian Proclivities” adds an extra dimension to the album, as do the strings and banjo. Especially in the next to last track of Nervous, Siskiyou really take it over the top, bringing one of their best works to the table, with everything working together perfectly. The guitars lines with the laid back rhythm section, the strings and the terrific vocals managing to retain the dreamlike structures of their ambiance but at the same time throw in some more intensity to the mix.
The evolution of Siskiyou is quite interesting simply because it has been done in such an intelligent way, it just seems to fit perfectly. Listening to Nervous, even though the vibe of the album has changed, it does not seem that Siskiyou have lost that much of their previous self in the process. Quite a curious case but it has delivered an album of the caliber of Nervous.
7.7 / 10
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