Another review for The Chimes:
In today’s age of technological advancement, rampant information, and instantaneous accessibility, the A-list seems to be increasingly filling up with younger names. This seems to have exploded in recent years, but back before it wasn’t completely ridiculous to hear that Justin Bieber might be in your next intro to psychology class, Eisley was already turning heads with their double edged sword of mature sounding music and demure youthfulness. Their cohesive vision was cemented through a realized integration of their lyrics, art, fashion, and music, which might have very well made them instrumental in forming the popular modern penchant for “vintage culture.” Their first album Room Noises was full of scenes seemingly taken from some shelved Lewis Carroll fable, and Eisley has always been accompanied by images of muted earthtone colored woodcut stencil images of smiling suns, Victorian dressed adolescents, birdcages, and animals with suits on. As if they knew that world would become overexposed, their criminally underappreciated sophomore effort Combinations kept that flavor to a minimum and explored classic themes of self-reflection. Their latest record The Valley follows suit, tackling relationships, impressions, and the ever-unusual dance of human interaction.
The Valley retains a significant tightness, which can be explained either as more structured or simply evidence of maturity. It’s a bit unusual since the subject matter does seem to be a bit less “profound” compared to Combinations. Here we find the women of Eisley singing about relationship woes almost exclusively, and all in ways we’ve heard before, whereas the reflections on familial tensions in their second album was perhaps less cliché. The stories are still just as personal though, and vocalist Sherri DuPree , formerly married to Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory, references her break-up as influencing much of the lyrics in The Valley.
The instrumentation itself and even the way these melodic hooks fall on the ears seems a bit more confident and seasoned, as if there were audibly noticeable years of wisdom in the riffs alone between this album and the last. The rolling chorus on “Watch It Die” compliments it’s bouncy hand-clapping verses in a way that would never occur in an earlier Eisley record, and “Oxygen Mask” is infused with a subtle foot-stomping shuffle, giving it a memorable distinction from the rest of the songs. Since the band’s “sound” is so defined and well preserved, making each song unique is a skill they’ve had to work especially hard at. Combinations was a start and perhaps this album is their best effort in accomplishing that delicate balance.
The music sounds more poppy, maybe due to lead singers Sherri and Stacy DuPree getting married to frontmen of pop and rock styled bands (Max Bemis of Say Anything and Darren King of Mutemath, respectively.) This fresh emphasis on song structure will probably serve the band most in the long run. Previously the DuPree sisters proved to the world that they could sing, but often by laying alternate vocal parts over each other, producing gorgeous sounds, but also a muddled and therefore forgettable melody. Here, the voices combine with the rest of the band to serve and provide a showcase for the song, rather than the other way around.
The song titles are simple as usual, (“Sad,” “Smarter,” “Please,” and “I Wish” to name a few) but the lyrics are stronger and feel more natural. Some lines in previous albums seemed written on the spot without edits, and came off as undeniably awkward, but here the band has discovered that even phonetic sounds matter. They still retain traces of their fairy tale roots, and sometimes this is a welcome trait. Other times they give way to overly theatrical lines that not even a pretty song can pass off as unnoticeable, for example combining the exhaustible poetic “Oh!” with the character “Mr. Moon.” Pseudo nursery rhymes can be done well, and who better to illustrate this than Eisley, but sometimes it feels misplaced. Thankfully there is enough content here to excuse these moments. The line is completed as “Oh, Mr. Moon, shines down on my home, it’s where I belong without you…” which is in itself an interesting idea, especially within the song’s greater picture.
The album closes with “Ambulance,” a hopeful plea for rescue. With real life relationships for the most part intact, it seems Eisley has little to worry about in their band career as well.