Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sylvie - Trees and Shade Are Our Only Fences Album Review

This is an interesting album, mostly because I can't recall anything about it. At the time I was reviewing it, I definitely seemed to enjoy it, but it's a couple of years later and I don't have a clue as to what the band sounded like even though I probably listened to it 5-10 times while reviewing it. Maybe it's because I'm continually overwhelmed by new music and something really needs to stick out to be memorable. Maybe the album really wasn't that good and I didn't realize it until later. Or maybe I just have a bad memory. After re-reading this, though, I am tempted to go give the album another listen... assuming I can find it in my stack CDs. For reference, this was originally published at Decoy Music on the 24th of February, 2009.

Sylvie exist in an odd place. On the surface, Trees and Shade Are Our Only Fences seems like a pretty standard and competent indie rock album with some shoegaze and pop undertones. That’s all you may notice if you only listen to the album once or twice, or what you’d think if you only listened to a couple of songs by the band. However, time is this album’s best friend as you’ll start to get entwined with the relatively sparse simplicity of some passages and then grabbed by the post-punk underpinnings that seep into the more labor-intensive portions of the album. Then again, time can also be this album’s greatest enemy. Besides the inability to truly appreciate this album without enough listens, after a few too many listens your love may start to temper as you realize you want something more from Sylvie.

Throughout the album, Sylvie have a wonderfully odd ability to take traits of bands much more aggressive than them and soften or mold those traits into a poppier form. If you listen to the album long enough, you’d swear you are listening to At the Drive-In or The Fall of Troy if only they were on psychotropic uppers and fronted by a set of vocalists all intensely focused on melody. That’s only part of the picture, though. The band is decidedly unlike the aforementioned bands at certain points throughout the album as they trek down a path of shoegaze drenched atmospherics.

With everyone in the band, except the drummer, contributing to vocals throughout the album, there are many opportunities for variations on how to approach their craft. Utilizing the beautifully feminine voice of newcomer Erin Passmore in tracks such as “When We Were Young”, the band has a nicely arranged balance between her elegant vocals and the band’s fuzzed out, yet not abrasive, song structure. At other times Erin’s interaction with Joel Passmore leads to passages reminiscent of The Forecast, which, to be clear, should be read as a compliment and not a criticism.

Trees and Shade Are Our Only Fences is a notably unique album with the ability to draw on the attributes of many sub-genres, but despite Sylvie’s apparent talent for synergizing their influences into a unique piece of work, there is a yearning you’ll feel for the band to push themselves just a little farther, to venture deeper in a certain direction, or to explore one more idea. Even with this room for growth, there is no denying that this album does deserve your attention. Under the guiding hand of J. Robbins, Sylvie have created a intricate mix of styles that shouldn’t be left unnoticed.

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