RATING: (9 out of 10) RELEASE DATE: March 1st, 2011 LABEL: Equal Vision Records REVIEWED ON: July 6th, 2011 REVIEWED BY: Sara NapierREVIEW
After an absence of nearly four years, Eisley is back with their third studio album. The Indie band based out of Tyler, Texas, has always been most notable for their creative sound and close relationship with each other. Being family members, this five-piece group has a natural connection that shines through in their music. At the end of 2010 the band signed with Equal Vision Records and announced their plans for The Valley.
I haven't previously heard much of Eisley’s music, but I had always been told that their style was mostly happy and light. Therefore, I was surprised by the dark tone of this album. Much like the most dynamic artists of our time, Eisley has obviously undergone a transformation between The Valley and their previous album, Combinations. This latest offering feels like the “grown up” version of Eisley and presents sorrow, heartbreak, and loss in a vivid way.
The members were teenagers and young adults at the time of their first studio release in 2005, when they rose to fame. Since then, the band has traveled the world and experienced enough life to have new perspectives. Their progression is refreshing, and singer Sherri Dupree Bemis has a David-like approach to her writing style. Each song is like a Psalm with depth and emotion that can be felt. As the members have grown, this album makes it clear that so has Eisley’s style.
While long-time Eisley fans may not be prepared for the darker tone, the same creativity and great emotion can be felt through this album as with previous ones. The arrangement is unusual, and as some songs transition seamlessly, others have to be digested fully before their placement can be appreciated. This is not one of those albums where you can purchase one or two songs and feel you understand it. It's much like a book with chapters: it has to be taken in from beginning to end to make an assessment.
The album begins with “The Valley," a song with one of the most original openers I have heard in a while. I was expecting it to start out with an instrumental intro then transition into lyrics, but this album begins rather suddenly with a line that sets up for the story you are about to hear over the next 11 tracks. I am reminded of Psalm 23 through the song:
“Take me home/ I walk the night in the valley/ ‘til everything is fine”
To me, the best songs on the album are somewhat spread around. Not that any are bad, but there are about five songs on the album that could be listened to at any given time. The rest carry such deep emotion, perhaps they wouldn’t be fitting for every occasion.
"Watch It Die" is an exciting track that is genuinely a lot of fun to listen to. Its lyrics remind you to be comfortable with yourself and not to try to be perfect for the benefit of a shallow relationship. It combines Sherri's strong voice with the use of drums, piano and violins. It is one of my favorite tracks and currently serves as a ringtone on my phone.
“Better Love” depicts a state of brokenness, feeling like a prayer I know we can all identify with:
“Oh God, why can’t I stop/ licking my own wounds/ when I’ve found my place with You?/ Make me a better Love/ Because I‘ve finally found out/ You‘re on my side/ with a bullet for the bad guys/ Hallelujah”
My personal favorite, “Kind,” is a beautiful song of love. It is about the joys of encouraging one another and being together through all times, good or bad. During the good, we are reminded to be thankful for the blessing of this other person; during the bad, to be encouraging to one another and to push the world off of the other’s shoulders. This is a very clean, light-sounding song that is piano-lead with strings, synth, and acoustic guitar.
“Mr. Moon” is made with clever lyrics that remind us that sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. It would be helpful to anyone who recently experienced a heartbreak, a song that goes from an unspeakably painful time to the time of hope and optimism. The vocals on this track are stunning and carry a passion that relieves thoughts of calamity.
The album‘s first single is the anthem-like “Smarter," a song that represents the theme perfectly. It steers the album in its direction, and through the course of the track, you realize this dark-sounding album is really one about great strength and healing. It is perfect for anyone overcoming hardships and adds the bonus of beautiful music that can be carried into happier seasons of life.
Overall, this could arguably be Eisley’s greatest album. It is grounded and realistic, a harsh contrast to previous works, making it that much more desirable. The songs are relatable to a wide range of people, and though the subjects are quite serious, the resolve is hopeful and optimistic.
Showing off the writing and vocal talents of the DuPree sisters, you will find yourself lost in the vocal arrangements alone. Listening in to refined instrumentals that leave you wanting to know what comes next. I went into this knowing little about Eisley and came out a serious fan. The Valley is certainly a worthy addition to your music collection.