Music

Eisley: Combinations

On their second LP, Eisley bring us more songs touched by luminous, engrossing melodies coupled with rich lyrical images.


Eisley

Combinations

Label: Reprise
US Release Date: 2007-08-14
UK Release Date: 2007-08-14
Amazon
iTunes
"You don't have to know the truth, if you believe it, I believe it too."

-- Eisley, "Invasion"

Eisley release Combinations as their second LP after 2005's Room Noises, which was met with mixed critical review, but drew in a large, intrigued fan base. On this second release, the four DuPree siblings (plus one cousin) bring us more songs touched by luminous, engrossing melodies coupled with rich lyrical images. None of the tracks on Combinations are terribly complex or intricate; in fact, most all of them follow similar structures and deal with the same themes of trust, dreams, and love. But despite typical pop elements, Eisley's sound comes off as fresh and distinct. Perhaps it is Sherri and Stacy DuPree's smooth, liquid-like voices that so definitely distinguish Eisley from their peers, but there is certainly more to Eisley's charm than just enchanting vocals.

Melanie Haupt wrote in The Austin Chronicle about Room Noises, "While Sherri and Staci DuPree have florid imaginations and lovely singing voices, that won't carry the band past one or two LPs." Combinations begs to differ. All five DuPrees contribute to this album's array of versatile sounds, from a pop-rock chorus in "Invasion" to a groove in "Ten Cent Blues" that sounds more like the alt-country of Wilco than indie-pop. Something about Eisley's music is intoxicating. But this "something" is elusive. Their vocals are heartbreaking, their rhythms are arresting, and their melodies are haunting, but many bands' music shares these adjectives. What pervades all of Eisley's music is an unnamable quality, some characteristic that is impossible to express except through the music itself.

"Come Clean" opens with the line "Mister, I don’t believe in you." This, and all of Eisley's lyrics, echo with feelings of hurt and loss, and more than anything else, distrust. But Eisley never touts their aching, and instead, through repeated phrases and subtle gestures, gently reveal to us that the pain is present; "Go away, leave me on my own," repeats over and over again on "Go Away", enough times that we are forced to wonder if they really mean it.

The songs are all oddly melancholy and subtly tragic. Even "Many Funerals", a song of mourning, never bluntly proclaims its intentions, but rather slowly develops ideas through imagery and earnest songwriting. The chorus of "I Could Be There For You" is painfully gorgeous. The song begins simply with subdued beats, but gradually adds layers of melody until it builds into a dreamy, yet powerful, state of sound. "You are nothing what you seem," they sing, and struggle with the universal problem of truth concealed by mystery. "Would you open your door?" they ask, a bittersweet plea to get beyond the surface.

More than anything else, Combinations highlights the group’s strong control over the tone and theme of their music. While most of these tracks (and songs from Eisley's previous repertoire) are free-flowing and enchanting, "A Sight to Behold" is somewhat choppy, considerably heavier, and darker in comparison, and shows that Eisley are capable of more than just the sugary-sweet. Where "Combinations" is straight-up beautiful with touches of trumpet and the focus on the vocals, "Ten Cent Blues" is more country than anything else, seemingly one of few reflections of Eisley’s Texas roots. The lyrics are somewhat naïve, yet strangely profound:

I'm sorry I don't have her face,

and I'm probably going to lose this race.

There is no doubt she's such a mouse,

With such an abstract grace.

The term "abstract grace" seems to describe Combinations perfectly. The album proves Eisley to be masters of melody, strong lyricists, and capable of evoking a whole combination of emotions that are unable to be described using words. Hans Christian Andersen said, "Where words fail, music speaks." Fortunately for us, Eisley's lovely, refreshing, and affecting new disc speaks quite loudly.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image