Let’s get this out of the way, shall we? Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin have perhaps the worst name in music. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, they briefly became blog darlings after releasing their first album, Broom, independently back in 2005. This led to the Missouri band signing with Polyvinyl, the debut being given a rerelease and a similar-sounding, albeit slightly more polished follow-up, Pershing, landing in 2008. Now comes Let It Sway, produced by Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla and boasting cover art that’s every bit as self-consciously ‘kooky’ as the band’s miniker. Superficial details aside, though, how does it sound?
Well, the short answer is that Let It Sway is first and foremost a pop album. Guitar pop, yes, but undeniably pop nonetheless. Sometimes SSLYBY try to break from this template, adding complicated riffs and elongated songs, but it quickly turns out they shouldn’t bother. The moments when this album shines brightest are when the band unashamedly embraces its popiness. Lead single ‘Sink/Let It Sway’ is ridiculously catchy: before you’ve finished listening to it for the first time you’ll be singing along to the chorus – by the second listen you’ll be clapping along to the handclaps in the outro. ‘Everlyn’ also bops along to a nice beat, with the words “I want to know what it feels like / To be the other guy” sounding particularly heartfelt.
Staying with lyrics for a minute, although SSLYBY do manage to serve up the odd quality line here and there, much of Let It Sway sees the band “ooh”ing and “na na na na”ing like it's going out of fashion, as though stuck on indie autopilot mode. By the time you get to ‘Animalkind’, with its chorus consisting of the word “Anyway” repeated twelve (yes, twelve!) times, you realize you’re not listening to an album that might keep any accomplished songwriter up at night.
To be frank, there’s actually quite a lot here that’s inexcusable. ‘Critical Drain’ tries to reclaim the poppy, fun sound of the aforementioned tracks, with a bit of a country melody thrown in for good measure, but it just sounds tired and more than a little boring. Sadly, the same can really be said of SSLYBY themselves based on this evidence. If you caught these tracks on the radio, you’d happily hum along to the melodies and enjoy yourself for three minutes, but you certainly wouldn’t be writing home about what you’d just heard. Destined to be consigned to the ever-expanding pile of indie flotsam and jetsam, Let It Sway is at best instantly forgettable, and at worst disappointingly mediocre.