Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin have long been called darlings of the blogosphere and, despite the general buzz-worthiness this implies, it’s an unfortunate mislabeling. As they’ve aged, SSLYBY seem to be making a statement. Infectious melodies and happy-go-lucky arrangements aside, they’re no one’s darlings.
SSLYBY have been playing together in various incarnations in and around Springfield, Missouri for a decade, releasing songs to fans via mail-order cassette tapes, working day jobs, practising and recording in Will Knauer’s parents’ attic, and generally growing up in step with the Internet. A cursory search reveals a scattered treasure trove of apocryphal recordings and ancient links to once-fledgling music blogs.
SSLYBY’s third LP, Let It Sway, is a welcome return to form after 2008’s overly commercial-sounding (but still home-recorded and not altogether forgettable) Pershing. Death Cab For Cutie‘s Chris Walla produced the album, effectively lending it the same DIY charm that made their debut, Broom, so appealing.
Despite their seemingly effortless fist-pumping exuberance, SSLYBY come across as a strange amalgamation. They’re relentless optimists in the face of bleary loneliness and miscommunication – a combination that has all the makings of transcendent power-pop. And with a keen ear for pop melodies and an inexhaustible appetite for bouncy hooks, SSLYBY are a sure bet for afternoon cruising with the windows down.
Musically, Let It Sway is a pitch-perfect balance of SSLYBY’s previous aesthetics; it’s got Broom’s often charming feigned simplicity and smile-inducing catchiness, but it’s also another in a series of steps forward in songcraft signalled (if a bit miscued) on Pershing. Lyrics range from referencing Lewis Carroll (Phantomwise), music criticism (Critical Drain), vampirism (the grungy All Hail Dracula!), and solitude (In Pairs, in which Phil Dickey laments: “Not all god’s creatures come in pairs, you know.”). But heady subject matter is no match for Let It Sway’s nearly constant barrage of good feeling.
Back In The Saddle opens the album with an obvious mission statement; everything anyone ever loved about Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin is contained herein. But the journey, and the assurance “We’re gonna build a road that’s perfect. We’re gonna make it last” is spun round and reversed on the closer, Make It Last. Cardwell sings: “Nothing’s made to last these days.” It’s that discontented dichotomy that makes SSLYBY such a comfortable fit for their time and place; they’re both under the microscope and above it looking down.
Lead single Sink/Let It Sway carries characteristically catchy riffing and handclaps, juxtaposed with dogged, tired-sounding delivery. “Pretty girls don’t just park where they want to,” Cardwell sings. “They gotta look around in circles like we all do.” Banned (By The Man) rocks hard and carries an occasional ironic use of Auto-Detune (or at least pitch correction employed to knock Cardwell’s vocals slightly off-kilter). The lackadaisical nah-nah-nah refrain is nearly impossible to shake.
In today’s indie climate of beard-growing and hipster posturing, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin are a rare find; they manage to have fun without sounding forced, and to stay grounded without slinking dejectedly along the floor. Let It Sway proves that SSLYBY are still a power-pop force to be reckoned with, and that they’re nicely outgrowing the offhand irony of their name.