Eisley - The Valley
It's been four years since Combinations and, after such a long wait, The Valley, on one hand, might be viewed as a disappointment for it doesn't really bring anything new to the table and, to some, may even be a step backward in quality. Gone are the dark, heavy songs that made Combinations so interesting ("Many Funerals," "Invasion," "A Sight to Behold") and the whimsical lyrics that have permeated Eisley's music in the past. Instead, The Valley finds the band sticking mostly to brighter, shinier sounds and lyrics about love lost and found (which makes sense, considering the amount of relationship drama the DuPree sisters have been through over the past several years). Though there isn't much here that can truly be considered new or innovative - most of the songs adhere to the traditional pop song format and never veer too far off course - The Valley is still a worthwhile listening experience. The melodies, though predictable, are undeniably catchy and the harmonies Stacy, Sherri and Chauntelle DuPree are capable of crafting are nothing short of stunning, as rich and vital to the music's effect as any other form of instrumentation. In fact, it is really the strong vocals that set Eisley apart from similar bands that aren't quite so memorable; Stacy and Sherri, who trade leads back and forth over the course of the album, both have the unique capability of selling absolutely anything they're singing about. Even if, as on The Valley, the lyrics aren't particularly mindblowing and often seem quite repetitive, the girls sing with such feeling and conviction that it hardly matters. Songs like "Smarter" and "Sad," on paper, are a bit cliched in their representations of anger and betrayal but Sherri's vocals are fierce and biting, allowing the songs to rise above their middling premises. Later in the album, "Better Love" and "Please" are rather generically constructed yet stand out for their energy and hard-hitting choruses. Meanwhile, Stacy's songs tend to be slightly more experimental than her sister's. The piano-based "Watch It Die" provides some of the whimsy that is missing from most of the rest of the album; light and playful, it begs immediately for the repeat button. "I Wish" finds both Stacy and Sherri switching off vocals during the verses, creating a discombobulated effect that is resolved in the layered, swelling chorus, one of the biggest on the album, sounding much larger than the two or three voices it is constructed upon. Closer "Ambulance," on the other hand, dials down the intensity but is no less riveting. Though it was released more than a year ago on the Fire Kite EP, it still sounds just as fresh and emotional now as it did then and serves as a perfectly understated yet poignant ending to the album. If you're looking for something that's never been done before, The Valley isn't the place to find it. However, if you're looking for something that's perhaps not very new but is injected with passion and energy by a band that has grown ever more confident in their abilities, then it's a very fulfilling album. Despite being relatively inconsequential, I have come back to many of the songs here far more than most other releases this year. Still, it'll be interesting to see how Eisley continues to develop; they already have an EP slated for release early next year and, considering how long this album had been sitting on the shelf prior to release, it's difficult to say, musically, exactly where the band might be now.