Over a year ago Eisley announced they were leaving Warner Brothers. They announced in November, of 2010, that they'd moved to Equal Vision. The Valley is the long awaited follow up to 2007's Combination. Now despite the four year gap, Eisley had begun work on this album in 2008 and through a series of Warner Brothers fuck ups (here on out referred to as WBFU, even though I will probably only use this phrase once more), including the delaying of an EP order, failure to provide merchandise, and as well as life happening to the band members, the band has finally been able to release this, despite the WBFUs (see, I mentioned it again. Yeah it was unnecessary, whatever.)
On my first listen, all I could think was I wish I wasn't listening to a stream (link: http://www.spin.com/articles/exclusive-stream-eisleys-new-album) of this and had waited until the album actually came out. So I could listen to it on my new record player (I got a new record player, it's not actually news. It's used and old, but whatever. VINYL HIPSTERS FOR LIFE. I don't even know if they're releasing it on vinyl) and get the full sonic experience. The production does sound really clean (and while typically I'm all for lo-fi production, and production that's too high-fi bugs me, I think it's an aesthetic that has always worked well for Eisley) but the sound quality is iffy, again, damn you stream and damn my need for instant gratification.
Now despite my quality gripings, I think this album is worth it. As always, Stacy and Sherri sound like a couple of sad, beautiful and at times angry angels. This album shows the many ways in which the band has grown. Two songs which stick out to me, possibly because pre-release I sat with them longest, are "Ambulance" and "Smarter." These two tracks represent very different sides of Eisley, Smarter is probably one of the most rocking things they've done and Sherri manages to sound both intimate and angry (as she notes and "apologizes" for from the very beginning) as she spits line like "you are the narcissist / you're everything you saw in me." Juxtapose this with "Ambulance" which Stacy sings so beautifully it could make angels and super pissed off biker types begin to weep and ask her if she needs to be hugged (even though the fangirl in me would note it was written for Sherri, and therefore she deserves the hug but if given the opprotunity I think angel/pissed off biker should hug both. Fangirl rant over, though I'm a fanboy, but that's not as fun.)
Another stand out is "I Wish" an acoustic guitar driven song which reminds me of stuff on Room Noises, and the vocal meloldies and harmonies on that sound like an orgasm, except not really because that's much more breathy and awkward. I just am trying to avoid comparing them to angels again because I'm starting to feel creepy. The opener, "The Valley" is noteworthy for it's use of strings and also it's general driving feel (something which many of the tracks have, which will please fans of Combinations because that's when I think they really developed their drumming and when Weston started kicking alot more ass.)
I feel awkward - most of this review is praising Eisley, and when listening to their music it's hard to see any flaws, but I don't want to say this album is perfect. It still feels like something is missing, their evolution as a band has been subtle and, while still firmly rooted in music like Sunny Day Real Estate, and the Bends, they're moving past that and creating their own niche. Like I said, there's few flaws to point out. The album is full of seamless pop songs, that are very ethereal and beautiful. This is where Eisley's strength is, but there's an element of humanity lacking. While when harmonizing, Stacy and Sherri can sound like the angels, sometimes it's a little too perfect and sounds almost manufactured at times (this feeling could stem from my distaste for high quality product. A lot of hi-fi releases feel empty to me.) Moments like "Smarter" where they really let loose more, show a touch of humanity that lends a lot of strength to their music, strength, that I think isn't present on some of these songs, which while sounding pretty, are often too pretty, if that makes any sense. Still, despite that, Eisley can at times be one of the emotional bands ever. I dare you listen to "The Ambulance" and not be touched.