Published on December 19th, 2016


Silversun Pickups | Credit: Claire Marie Vogel

Silversun Pickups | Credit: Claire Marie Vogel

Anxious times bend art in their direction. And there was anxiety to burn out in the world while the Los Angeles quartet Silversun Pickups were holed up making their fourth album.

Better Nature” arrived in September of 2015 — another year of proliferating bulletins on climate change, technological disruption and global conflict — and it found these indie guitar-pop weavers in a state of real urgency. With its tense, melancholy disquiet, “Better Nature” registered the existing fears and practically foretold 2016 — a year so unloved that HBO’s John Oliver has already declared it “the fucking worst.”

But it has had “Better Nature” making the rounds, a welcome reminder of the consolations of music. It is quite possibly Silversun Pickups’ best work to date — a proposition that singer-guitarist Brian Aubert did not reject in an interview with PureHoney, even if saying so felt odd for him.

“Actually, we do feel like it’s our best record,” Aubert wrote in an exchange of emails. “It’s an interesting feeling to have. We talk down everything we do. We want the records to speak on their own. Hyping yourself seems a bit ludicrous to us.”

Asked if the times had demanded a different kind of record than before, he replied, “Absolutely. This made us want to be immediate,” Aubert wrote of the album’s creation. “No past. No future. All present tense. Like meditation… “

Aubert, bassist-vocalist Nikki Monninger, drummer Christopher Guanlao and keyboardist Joe Lester were in a different place with 2012’s “Neck of the Woods,” an album with “a very nostalgic point of view,” recalled Aubert.

Silversun Pickups | Credit: Rebekkah Drake

Silversun Pickups | Credit: Rebekkah Drake

“Woods” may have been a wistful sendoff to their earlier selves. Marriages and parenthood beckoned for some of the four, Aubert included, and a band begun in 2000 by friends knocking around L.A.’s Silver Lake arts scene had become a livelihood.

“Artistically, it makes you more sensitive to the world,” Aubert wrote of being a parent. “More connected and more concerned about profound issues. We leave them [our children] to the world … “

Uncertainty about that world animates “Better Nature.” The title track, “Cradle (Better Nature),” opens the album with a tidal surge of sound, a snapping drumline underneath, and a desolate  pinging of four notes as its motif. An ominous lyric — “Hide your cradle/And a headstone/In the watermark/When the sea comes”  — gives way to a receding coda, like a music box winding down.

There is plenty of the meditative power and the immersive, fuzz-bathed sensory joy that first drew listeners to Silversun Pickups and landed, for example, 2006’s “Lazy Eye” on the soundtracks of both the “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” video games. But the unease persists throughout “Better Nature,” from the depiction of app-addicted kids of “Connection” to a breakup painted in shades of natural disaster on the penultimate track, “Ragamuffin”:

“Then, as the years flew by/And all the water died/There, I saw you dancing alone/On everything we own.”


Silversun Pickups | Credit: Rebekkah Drake

Each new Silversun Pickups album is “usually a bit of a rebellion from a previous album,” according to Aubert, and “Better Nature” fits that pattern.

“Not in a way that’s calculated,” he added. “It’s organic because you’ve spent a long time with the previous record and you’ve gone all in on those feelings and concepts. Once you start again, all that is gone and you’re in a new world.”

Aubert considers it essential to embrace that newness every time around if a band wants to stay as motivated as it did on day one. “So we always feel like we’re reaching for something that’s just out of our grasp,” he wrote. “I think that’s why we feel new. Because what we want is always new.”

As for the discontents of 2016, he wrote, “However you feel right now, just remember, be the best person you can possibly be. For your friends, for your families, for your loved ones, for strangers, for the world and for yourself. You make the world you live in.”

Silversun Pickups perform the Riptide Music Festival, Saturday, Dec. 3 on Fort Lauderdale Beach, A1A and Harbor Drive. Gates open at 10am. Festival tickets start at $49. Information at 877-766-8162,
SATURDAY, DEC 3: Silversun Pickups, AWOLNATION, SAINT MOTEL, Pepper, Glass Animals, Robert DeLong, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, The Struts, Good Charlotte, Miike Snow, Dirty Heads
SUNDAY, DEC 4: The B-52’s, Howard Jones, Earth, Wind & Fire, Debbie Deb, The Fixx, Lime, A Flock of Seagulls, EXPOSÉ
~ Sean Piccoli

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