Release Date: May 28, 2013
When I first encountered Eisley as an unsigned band, I was extremely impressed – and not just because they were fronted by 3 sisters ranging from 15-19 years old (Stacy, Sherri, and Chauntelle DuPree). Their first major-label full-length record, Room Noises satisfied expectations while smoothing out some of the rough production of their indie releases. On Combinations, their followup, it felt a bit like someone was telling them to smile real hard and make music that will make sense to the masses – I’ve never connected with it. Then they released their master-work, The Valley, which blew all previous accolades out of the water. So, how do you follow up such an album?
For Currents, the band took full control of the production. They involved more of the family in the process with brother Weston (drums) and cousin Garron (bass) contributing to the writing and recording on a level that they hadn’t before. (They are also joined by their additional siblings Christie and Colin of Merriment on a track.) And they took their sound back to the beginning while infusing mature lyrics to their already amazing harmonies.
The result is good on its own and exists on almost a whole different plane than what the band has done before. If it’s possible to reboot a band without changing the lineup, Eisley has done it. They exorcised their demons on The Valley and have emerged re-energized, wiser, and perhaps more excited than ever before… That said, I can’t help but be a little disappointed to hear them not continue in the same vein as the sound of The Valley – a heavier (sonically and thematically), emotion-filled attack on the senses.
The themes here have a much more positive vibe than anything the band has done in the past. While some of the lyrics are difficult to make out (more on that later) there seems to be a couple of common themes: love and faith. In fact, this record seems to show the band putting their faith on display more than they ever have. It’s always been a part of who they are, but has not blatantly seeped into their records – to be fair, it’s hard to talk about faith when singing about winter wizards, candy forests, a gumdrop mountains.
The biggest standout track is “Millstone“, the first full lead vocal track from the eldest Dupree sibling, Chauntelle. While each sister (including Christie on “Wicked Child”) has a very similar voice, Chauntelle’s tone brings a welcomed groundedness to a previously airy collection of tracks. The sparse production on “Millstone” also serves as a nice change of pace for the record and allows Chauntelle’s voice to be on full display.
The biggest successes here ride on the vocal interplay of the singers. The simple addition of a heretofore unheard male vocal on “Save My Soul” is a welcomed gift. Sans liner-notes, I’m left to believe that this is the previously stated guest vocal from Max Bemis of Say Anything (and husband of Sherri). I’m a huge fan of Christie’s voice and her placement opposite Sherri on “Wicked Child” creates a wonderful balance.
The misses for me on the record are really in the production department (a responsibility that the band was excited to have full ownership of this time around). Save for a couple of standout tracks (“Millstone”,”Find Me Here”) the vocals are very buried in the mix making the lyrics a bit harder to comprehend.
While I’m glad to see the guys take more of a leadership role and get the recognition they deserve for their years in the band, the production on the bass and drums is a bit much for my taste. It reminds me of the re-formation of Ben Folds Five who offered pretty balanced mixes in their first incarnation, but crank the bass and drums up to 11 on their reunion album with previously Five-less Folds.
While it lacks the urgency of its predecessor, Currents succeeds far more than it fails. It doesn’t try to recreate the simplicity of the past, but it pays homage to a deep history as a band and as individuals while clearly stating, “this is where we are in life, we know who we are, and we know what we’re about… but we may still be discovering ourselves musically.” And maybe they always will be.