Written by: Dave Cantrell
Having burst as if from a chrysalis in 2014 with their debut album Go Guitars, Austin-based She Sir return with their highly anticipated sophomore effort Rival Island. Again on soon-to-be-legendary Portland label Shelflife, this new record finds the band evolving even further from their two-thousand-aughts shoegaze roots, leaning into the many headwinds with soulful grit and a classicist grace. While having the good sense to have Louie Lino as their producer this time around (New Pornographers, Nada Surf, Doug Gillard et al) and to hand off the mastering to Joe Lambert, whose credits include The National, Animal Collective, and Deerhunter, the fact is that the material on Rival Island is so intrinsically strong, the band’s sound so, well, sound, that it may well be the easiest paycheck that either man has ever cashed. The album – released next Friday, July 21st, on limited edition ‘Black Smoke’ translucent vinyl (that’s the one we want) and milky clear vinyl – is, in a phrase, dreampop in excelsis, She Sir managing that rare counter-intuitive feat of soaring with creative abandon while remaining grounded in purpose and spirit. One of 2017’s most arresting records, we’re proud here at SEM to offer a sneak preview. Tap play, revel and sway, and don’t forget to scroll down for track-by-track ‘band blurbs.’ It’s the whole package, and it’ll make your day.
- “Private Party:” Wanted straightforward pop song for first track – easily accessible, restrained, naive – setting the tone for the rest of the album. Lyrically, it’s part joie de vivre, part giving up on loving others.
- “Manila Mint:” This one opens up the musical vocabulary of the record a bit more, introducing a more challenging musical phrasing as we underscore the trouble of love. “I found that our love had gone insane, oh that our love would go away.”
- “Noon Inspirits:” Eschews traditional elements of western music such as triadic chords and a well-defined key signature. There’s really no clear guitar hook and even the vocal line is pretty anti-melody, pretty conversational. Lyrics suggest a break from the rules, forms of hedonism: “You can have bad thoughts, you can have a good time too” and “Ouroboros love.”
- “DBS:” Wanted an upbeat track with a vintage pop feel. A bit ironic, bombastic. Further descent.
- “Quinine Courts:” Begins with a dissonant chord sounding slightly frayed. This is a sibling to “Noon Inspirits” because they share the same structure. The vocal line’s dream-like, stream-of-consciousness delivery is reinformed by the whimsical phrasing of the chorus.
- “Diamond Churn:” Proposals of permanence while exorcising dreams.
- “Pheromondo (Babysitter’s Back):” A playful song with the titular ‘Babysitter’ representing Death. “You’re the curse I – I mean we both – know.” Expressions of intimacy or helplessness. “We’re alone…what do you want me to do?”
- “Corporealobo:” Meant to have a heavy/dragging feel to it – like the weight of limbs – in spite of an unmistakable dance beat. Lyrics rebel: “Don’t dance…and never cause a fall. Fall is a death.
- “Dark Glass Tomb:” An upbeat, otherworldly tune. Song title evokes images of teasingly translucent sunglass caskets – totally fragile – obscuring all from outside-in or inside-out. Permanence and impermanence, knowingness and unknowingness. “Oh I can keep the candles burning low.”
- “Mirror, No (We’re the Same):” Wanted simple, striking finale. Employing classic I IV V chord progression provides the listener with an understanding of the song vocabulary without the learning curve. By contrast, the vocal phrasing is exciting, unpredictable. Lyric protests – “Oh, what do I got to do?” – subside. A ghostly dissonant chord shows up during fadeout, suggests a schism or some divergence.