Somewhere along the way, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin lost the lo-fi, recorded-in-an-attic quality that branded them as part of the mid-2000s blog-rock wave. They still make darling pop songs, but Fly By Wire is devoid of the melancholy that often infused their earlier work. The sad stuff has been flushed in favor of blissful, sunny melodies that don’t hesitate to embrace dangerous optimism. The new sound is pleasant in all the right ways, yet you might find yourself yearning for the cloud cover that lent such nuance to their breakout work, 2006’s Broom. This is a fair-weather album if there ever was one.
The band is going through a self-professed “rebirth” following a trip to Russia earlier this year, where they met with Boris Yeltsin’s close friends and personal translator, and played at an elementary school after being named ambassadors-for-a-day by the U.S. consulate. Russia isn’t typically the place that you’d expect to inspire happy, giddy art, but early tracks like “Harrison Ford” and “Young Presidents” do an accurate job of setting that bright tone of the rest of the album. The latter is pushed by a handclap beat and a stop-go chorus call, the whole thing almost too precious to stomach.
The song with the closest thing to teeth comes late in the album, in the form of “Nightwater Girlfriend”, a track full of pop-punk chords, the bliss turned into a kind of scared awe. “I’m in love with you, don’t turn your power on me,” frontman Philip Dickey sings. Ultimately, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin winds up a little cowed, possibly with too many feelings, but certainly happy to be there. While Fly By Wire is pleasing, it feels like a daydream: lovely while it lasts, fading quickly, and hard to remember once it’s gone.
Essential Tracks: “Harrison Ford”, “Young Presidents”, and “Nightwater Girlfriend”