Springfield, Missouri five piece Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, despite the fantastic name, were a band that had largely passed me by. So reviewing The High Country, the bands fourth album – out now on Polyvinyl, was a voyage of discovery for me. As it turns out it was a very enjoyable journey as well, albeit brief with the eleven tracks clocking in at a mere 26 minutes.
What Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (tell you what, lets refer to them as SSLYBY from here on in, or we’ll be here all night) do, and do very well, is write songs that are faintly reminiscent of The Wedding Present – not so much in sound, more that they make these perfect little slices of indie pop, dress them up with clever and witty words, and soak them in noise, SSLYBY more shoegazy that the Wedding Present, who are more, well, Wedding Present.
The male/female vocal interplay is one of the most pleasing things about the band, and right from the off, in the ebbing and flowing opener Line on You, its very much in evidence, along with this wall of feedback and wiry lines of solo guitar. Nothing new particularly, but they do it very well, and its dressing really for the songs.
Highlights include the Step Brother City, a study of love in general from the mans point of view, but with this pulsating backing, the in and out driving guitars propelling it onward, and blessed with the sort of melody that lives long in the memory. Foreign Future and What I Won both wrap up candy coated indie pop with crunching chords and splashing drums, while Madeleine is a moment of repose within the record, stripped back and more emotive. Best of all though is the MBV like Trevor Forever which shows that Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin are up there with indie royalty, like, well, The Wedding Present and My Bloody Valentine.
Now, where’s that back catalogue.
Familiarizing myself with an album over the course of a single work week is tiring. It helps that I’ve got some experience with Someone Still Love You Boris Yeltsin: my college radio station booked them to play a show back in 2009 when Pershing was still fresh. Such was a record that was fairly straightforward in its approach to alternative pop (don’t give up during that cowbell digression on opener ‘Glue Girls’. There’s much more to the song). Not much has changed on this new album, but bless them for that. They’re making twee sounds post Belle and Sebastian. They’re compressing and conserving heavy distortion post Yo La Tengo, and singing romantic songs, unabashedly, post everything. Their predecessors made consistently great albums over a career-length number of years, and it’s apparently SSLYBY’s turn. Each song on The High Country is contained within three minutes, reminding me to keep my week simple despite an impending deadline.
Compactness aside, the tracks here don’t give up on lyrical imagination. On ‘Step Brother City’, Philip Dickey doesn’t address a single love interest, but the whole of whatever typically makes men obsess: “All the kids’ songs and poems are all about you/and all the bad ones, too… God who knows how anyone could live in a city where you don’t live.” Like the group of boys in The Virgin Suicides, Dickey’s subject encompasses more than just one muse. But, he reminds the listener to play it romantically cool on ‘Full Possession of All Her Powers’, not letting the “smile on her lips ’cause she finds you attractive” give away the ending of the story.
Most songs on The High Country are like this, but ‘Madeline’ peels away the guitar bombast for two minutes of peace. “I’m down at the police station/Please find me Madeline” sings Dickey, fending off the insatiable urge to add drums to turn the pleading lyric into something as exciting as our opener ‘Line On You’. Although the calm feels a little forced, it is much needed amongst so many poppy bangers; which are flourishing and aplenty. On ‘Trevor Forever’, the subject is invited to “bring down fascists” over a 5-second, atonal solo that paves the way for more lyrics and feedback. At the end, there’s a biblical reference before Dickey exclaims “Oh my god! Jesus Christ!” before the dude, for maybe the first time in the history of SSLYBY, screams from the bottom of his lungs to signal the songs end. Surprisingly, the track is kept in dynamic check throughout.
Although ‘What I Won’ and ‘Song Will’ occupy an awkwardly hazy stylistic middle ground, the latter paves the way for the excellent ‘Magnet’s New Summer ‘Do’. At a mere 124 seconds, this song has tense sixteenth-note beats that trade spotlights with warm guitars that eddy around on low chords or short, high arpeggios. Thriftily, there’s only a little room for vocals, which are more playful and less direct than most of the songs on the album. It’s just as well, since closer ‘Total Meltdown’ combines great bounciness of the instrumentals with more concise lyricism: “We got this feeling/We got this moment/And that is all we will ever need/And I’m not afraid.” If this is Dickey’s meltdown, I want to have it every day, crunchy chords and tight hi-hat openings included.
It’s the beginning of the weekend as I write this, and the first line of The High Country is “We got so goddamn drunk/I felt ashamed when we woke up.” Although this did take several full listens in the past week, SSLYBY made each one easy for me. I’m seeing a lot of friends within the next two days, and I’ll have plenty of time to gush about the simple grace of the songs on this album. We’ll talk about how enamoured with their show we were six years ago, and I’ll be trying to explain how the band won’t be losing any gusto anytime soon.