The Silver Lake Chorus - The Silver Lake Chorus (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
THE Silver Lake Chorus is a collection of 20 young, dynamic, seriously talented Los Angelenos, who have managed to attract some of the cream of contemporary song-writing to pen the tracks that make up their new album.
We’re talking Sia, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie, Postal Service), Tegan & Sara and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) – to name but a few.
The results are terrific and unlike anything else you’re likely to hear this year. Hence, you’ll find original indie rock songs being given a lush and highly-tailored choral treatment, complete with ad-hoc instrumentation.
It shouldn’t really work. But it does. And well. Among the most striking examples is the ultra-cool Break It Down, which manages to combine lush choral vocals with slick hip-hop beats and synths. It’s heavenly and urban at the same time, with the sort of hip-hop vibe that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Fast & Furious street scene, if it took a wrong turn and ended up in City of Angels territory! And this one marks The Bird and the Bee’s contribution.
Tegan and Sara’s contribution is equally notable on Hold Up For. A stirring acoustic lick is accompanied by a throbbing central bass before glockenspiel beats lend extra beauty to the harmonious vocals. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a violin slowly weaving in and out. It’s sweet yet bittersweet, a wonderful juxtaposition of happy and sad. The sublime instrumentation combining with lyrics that, at once, proclaim “I can tell you’re just my type” and “do you think you love me” before curtailing to “I want to leave life behind”.
Wayne Coyne brings that ethereal Flaming Lips-style sound to Heavy Star Movin’, which adopts an a capella meets orchestral flow. Early on, it’s just the serene vocals. But then the lyrics give way to lush, angelic-style harmonising and hypnotic, even cinematic, orchestral arrangements. Again, it’s a distinct sound that only draws from the signature sound of its creator.
Just occasionally, there’s a track that lacks the out and out magic of the album’s best moments. And this is more common when reverting completely to a capella.
But at other times, there’s a beauty to the songs that’s entirely intoxicating. Further highlights come from another of those bittersweet moments, Nervous Soul, with lyrics that lament “I don’t want to die but I don’t want to live”. It’s written by Death Cab For Cutie’s Benjamin Gibbard and while the composition lightly echoes the indie pop sound of that band, the flutes and harmonies have something of a Polyphonic Spree vibe attached too. The singing on this one is particularly memorable.
Salted Wound, meanwhile, comes from the pen and mind of Sia Furler and has a subtle beauty to it. If you’d been expecting a Sia-styled slice of energetic choral pop, then think again. This is more serene, more slow-building and atmospheric. It almost stops you in your tracks and eases you into a state of serenity.
Overboard, on the other hand, picks up the pace nicely, combining some breezy melodies with a great central vocal and some well-judged backing choral contributions. It’s perhaps the most overtly pop song on the LP – but it’s empowering and a real delight from Ben Lee.
As too is Wreckage (written by AC Newman), which again adopts a more robust pop sound that stirs the emotions in all the right ways.
The Silver Lake Chorus have delivered a real treat.
Download picks: Hold Up For, Break It Down, Nervous Soul, Overboard, Wreckage
Listen to Hold Up For
Listen to From The Snow Tipped Hills