Released: June 2015
With a discography about as long as their name, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, who will from now be referred to as SSLYBY, have decided to do things a little different with this follow-up LP to 2013’s Fly By Wire. A record that attempts to replicate a typical SSLYBY live show, The High Country is raucous and unpolished, exhibiting a discordant style that gets catchy indie pop hooks and drowns them in glorious feedback and distorted guitar fuzz. The band claim that they chose the album’s name simply because ‘it sounded good’. One suspects that such a philosophy gave birth to the entire record.
Despite having ‘cranked up our amps in practice and at shows’, the boys at SSLYBY are known primarily for catchy indie pop with dashes of lyrical depth and instrumental prowess. The dirty rock sounds found on The High Country are a bit of a departure for the band and it really works, again, often there not to add artistic value to tracks, but just because a heavy distorted guitar over a sweet pop melody sounds f*cking cool. It’s like a punk band tearing up an early Beatles record.
Line On You opens the album in style, doing exactly what the album works at throughout its duration. It’s got the melodies and harmonies of Los Campesinos! or Passion Pit but then lingering underneath and sometimes dominating over the top is a dirty electric guitar throwing distortion and feedback our way to add another layer to an otherwise amicable, if not a little formulaic, track. What I Won goes a step further, drowning its shoegaze-esque vocal line with contrasting octaves and harmonies in a sea of electronic noise. The melodies and lyrics are buried beneath this torrent of sound, left to be uncovered or, for more casual listeners, left to be lost in the ether as sheer noise becomes the flavour of the week.
Occasionally the LP reverts to the usual fare, with middle of the road indie tracks very much characterising the bulk of its middle section. Foreign Future and Madeline provide little of interest, not really going anywhere but nonetheless serving as nice enough acoustic pop tracks. Trevor Forever makes amends for this however, a straight up punk rock song that utilises the dirty feedback-ridden guitars and screaming manic vocals of vocal duo Phil Dickey and Will Knauer. It is followed by Song Will and Total Meltdown which follow this trend, ending the record on a decidedly noisy note.
A departure of sorts in terms of the band’s studio output, but nonetheless characteristic of the band’s live sound, The High Country is a gritty, no-nonsense record that can have taken from it as much the listener gives. It will be intellectual noise rock experimentation to some, and ruthless anarchic punk to others, and either definition works. Beautiful melodies amidst a sea of crushing noise characterise an album that feel’s just right at this point in SSLYBY’s career.