Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Found Your Pictures, Mailed Them To Your Mother

Tape Club (Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, 2011)

Last week I wrote up a short post highlighting some of my most anticipated music releases set to come out this fall, and as I mentioned in that post some of the releases have already been made available for listening by the bands. PolyVinyl Records band Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin first popped up on my radar last year when they released their fantastic album Let It Sway. Their latest release Tape Club, streaming in full over at the band's BandCamp page, is actually not a full on follow up, but rather a collection of unreleased songs, B-Sides, and various other recordings from the band's ten year history.

Before I write at length about Tape Club, it should go without saying that if you are a huge fan of SSLYBY then you should definitely go and check out this compilation. The chance to get a look at what an artist, or in this case a group of artists, decide to let out in the public realm - years after release - has always fascinated me. There's a reason why I always buy the latest Bob Dylan bootleg collection, and a good deal of the enjoyment I found in this album stems from the same spring.

I don't have the same familiarity with SSLYBY's catalog as I do with Dylan's, so coming to Tape Club as a relative outsider I only had a minor idea of what I would encounter. However, as I started the stream all my hesitancy immediately disappeared when the opening track, "The Clod and the Pebble", a rougher recording of a famous William Blake poem, started playing. And from this energy the compilation only begins to build.

The songs here, for the most part, sound so polished that I almost find it difficult to believe that they are, in some instances, almost a decade old. Though what the band does here is capture the timeless longings on tracks like "Sweet Owl" while still being able to balance that with the incredibly personal. At first the album's initial single, "Yellow Missing Signs", does not make the most sense as it chronicles an incredibly specific incident from the band's home state of Missouri, but the way it presents how information can spread is coupled with an excellently developed instrumentation that highlights the song's larger themes.

Actually, the instrumentation is another surprising aspect. On Let It Sway the band had a clearly developed sound, but I don't think I gave too much notice to how well arranged many of SSLYBY's songs are, by and large. With what has commonly been branded indie rock, it's very easy for a band to get tied to a single sound. What I find so refreshing about SSLYBY, and this is only reinforced when I consider how many years these songs span, is how willing the band is to experiment with different types of sound. While not an exercise in the aural landscape, Tape Club does reinforce the musical talents of the band.

At twenty six (mostly short) tracks, Tape Club does occasionally feel long and like a bit of a grab bag at points, but as far as compilations go I think the breadth also creates a fantastic entry point for a new listener. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin have compiled a working historiography. Tape Club is not only a collection of unearthed treasures to satiate longtime fans, it's a damn fine compilation for any listener. I don't know if it has the lasting power of a Let It Sway, but in what has already been a strong year for music, SSLYBY has only made it stronger.

Rating: ***/*****


Note Of Interest

The review copy of this material was provided by the band.

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© 2011 Richard James Thorne

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