Eisley | Currents (Equal Vision)

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From the titles of the songs to the arrangements and production, this is the sound of rebirth.

One of the perks of the traditional music industry of last century was the luxury of watching a band mature and come into their own. Seldom do we get to see that happen in the literal sense, but it does still happen. Currents marks Eisley’s tenth year as a band in the national music scene proper. When they released Laughing City, their first EP available nationally, their youngest band member was 14 years old and had already been in the band for 6 years. Their music was preternaturally mature, and this piqued the interest of music diehards from juxtaposed ends of the spectrum. They could let loose with cathartic energy and exuberant melodies, or hypnotize with angelic harmonies and calming serenades.

These last 10 years have been spent purposefully exploring the depths of those extremes. Eisley has embraced the learning process that informs maturation and used their musical talents to express the emotional impact of it. It’s at this point that Eisley has come full circle. They have gone from a band shepherded into the music industry with the loving guidance and support of parents who were inclined to let their children pursue their own dreams rather than force theirs upon them, to parents themselves (four of the five band members are parents of children younger than nine months old).

Currents was recorded during the aforementioned pregnancies and, forgive my redundancy, an aquatic theme permeates the album. If one were to seek out an alternate title for the album, In Utero would be appropriate had it not already been appropriated. Alternate album art? Well, the cover of Nevermind, of course, with a slight alteration: Instead of a dollar bill on the hook coaxing the child forward, the harp of a Cherub would be more a propos. From the titles of the songs to the arrangements and production, this is the sound of rebirth. This is Eisley embracing a second infancy.

On their first full-length album devoid of the influence of the major record label system, they take the freedom they experienced recording their excellent, yet polarizing, Deep Space EP a step forward. Fans have always been aware of the talents of the band members and bemoaned how they were suppressed by producers and label executives who pressured the band to compete in the mainstream radio marketplace. Though this produced focused work from the band, it also forced them to mute their artistic exploration, and thus limit their ability to truly blossom as a musical entity. Having “cut the cord” and severed those ties, Eisley has been reborn.

The world of Currents presents Eisley under their own terms. They recorded and produced the album themselves, in their own studio, with handpicked contributions from their ever-present tourmates/siblings Merriment (vocals, guitar), Max Bemis (vocals), and Jeremy Larson (string arrangements, mixing). Needless to say, this was family business at its best.

They are not reinventing the wheel so much as reinventing what Eisley can be. With these 12 tracks, they take liberties with how they cast their creations. What we have are permutations of the notion of what lush, rich, dynamic music can sound like from the Dupree family collective. Currents is their most mature and sophisticated effort to date. The songs revisit the melodic and rhythmic shifts that gave Room Noises, their debut, its uniqueness, as well as the absorbing melodies that powered Combinations and The Valley, while melding the poetic metaphors and literary creativity in the lyricism of earlier works with the emotional heft of their life experiences. These sorts of breakthroughs make for an adult feel to the album’s emotional content. At times, it feels as if you’re being beckoned by a Siren; at others, you’re in the belly of a whale contemplating your fate. There’s even a song that wouldn’t sound out of place soundtracking a Steve Zissou submarine excursion (“Lost Enemies”).

For fans of the more sophisticated leanings of Eisley, Currents is a definite win. For fans of the traditional tracts of AOR, adult alternative, alternative, or indie rock that Eisley have shown themselves capable of creating, this album might be a slow burner. This is Eisley for the faint of heart. Currents is awash in subtlety, and through refinement achieves brilliance. A | Willie Edward Smith

RIYL: Bat for Lashes, Florence + the Machine, Little Dragon, Kate Bush

Standout tracks: Currents, Blue Fish, Drink the Water, Millstone, The Real World, The Night Comes, Shelter

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