February 08, 2005

Eisley "Room Noises"

Due to the demands of writing, it sometimes happens that we music writers don't get the opportunity to fully appreciate a record's nuances. Because we're innundated with so much music, sometimes a writer only has the ability to listen to a record once or twice before writing about it. This is a shame, of course, but it's a somewhat understandable consequence that comes with devoting your life to music. How many excellent records have been dismissed simply because the writer didn't have the time to fully appreciate what they were listening to? The "it'll grow on you" factor is one that's terribly frustrating for us.

A good example of this phenomenon is the band Eisley. Having only briefly listened to their previous two releases, Laughing City and Marvelous Things, I was quick to dismiss them as a bland group that possessed good qualities but were being exploited and shaped and sucked lifeless by a money-hungry record label who saw three cute sisters as a potential moneymaker that should be exploited and would most likely be discarded as soon as the sales peaked. In my reviews of those records, I said as much. After said reviews were published, I did not, however, expect to give them a second listen. But some things happened and I did give them a second listen and I found myself coming back for a third listen and then a fourth listen and then a fifth listen and then I found myself infected with Eisley fever.

All of that is beside the point, of course.

Room Noises, Eisley's debut record, proves me wrong. After a good bit of time spent listening to those EP's and after learning the history of the band (which, in the order of fairness and objectivity, came directly from the band), I came to see that Sherri and Stacy DuPree are two very gifted songwriters. Though they may be dressed in Victorian-style clothing on the cover, and they may have a gorgeous harmonic style that's only found in siblings, there's nothing fanciful about their music, they're not as mystical--or as prepackaged--as they seem, they're just real (and real talented) young ladies who spent their youth playing music together and reading lots and lots of books.

When you look at pictures of the band, you'll discover that Eisley's music sounds exactly like you'd expect; dreamy, country-tinged rock that's heavy on the atmosphere, heavier on the lyrical content and overdosed in talent. Big-eyed Sherri DuPree is this generation's Tanya Donelly, writing songs that are pretty and intelligent and lovingly touching, singing songs that are deep and powerful in their simplicity. The LA-style rock of "My Lovely" is a good example of this; while the chorus of "Here's a song for you, my lovely/Remember that it is for you only, for you only" might come across as charmingly innocent, it takes exactly one listen to it to stick into your head and blossom into a beautifully complex but deceptively simple message of love and longing for that person you care about. The same can be said of "Brightly Wound," an ode to youthfulness; reading the lyrics, the song might seem annoyingly twee, but the DuPree girls make it sound like the best song Karen Carpenter never sang. And just wait until you hear "Just Like We Do," a beautiful acoustic ballad by Stacy DuPree; it's gorgeous in its simplicity and shows that her age (sixteen) means nothing when it comes to her music.

The rest of Room Noises follows suit; it's a wash of pretty lyrics and gorgeous harmonies and excellent musicianship. Though she does not sing on Room Noises, Chauntelle DuPree's guitarwork sparkles and shimmers throughout the record, highlighting her younger sisters' songwriting. The music stays dreamy, and though the record can best be described as "mellow," it's never so mellow as to become monotonous or dull. The only time the band lets go of the mellow is on "Plenty of Paper," which is a heavy-duty blast of 90's-style alternative-rock, and it makes those seemingly dismissive comparisons to Belly seem not so far-fetched. The closing "Trollywood" also

While Room Noises is a pretty record, it suffers from one major flaw--the first half of the record is dominated by four songs that have been previously released. While they've all been rerecorded, they really don't sound all that different from the EP versions, and though they're good, it just seems puzzling as to why a label would want a band to rerecord songs from their debut releases for their debut album. The sole exception--and Room Noises' lowest point--is a pointlessly remade version of the excellent "Telescope Eyes." If you've heard the original, this newer version, with a much faster tempo, just seems wrong. I'm sure the band has four excellent songs that could have been used instead. That's a minor quibble, and if that's the least that could be said about Room Noises, then so be it.

Room Noises is to Eisley what The Bends was to Radiohead--a really good album that shows their talents now and forecasts a storm of genius on the horizon. The world needs songwriters like Sherri and Stacy DuPree--talented, innocent songwriters who speak from the heart and the soul and the mind. It's sorely lacking in today's music world, and the simple fact that a band like Eisley exists shows that there's still a glimmer of hope in a run-down music scene. Here's to the success of the moment and to the launch of a wonderful career. Keep up the good work, y'all!

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.eisley.com
Label Website: http://www.repriserecords.com

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