I first encountered Eisley as an opening act during Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head tour. Playing a short, yet interesting set, the quintet caught my ear with their brand of intricate, girl-fronted guitar-pop. Consisting of three DuPree sisters, one brother, and a mutual friend, Eisley had a sound that meshed well with Coldplay's core audience and I could tell that this was a band to keep my eye on in the near future. Sure enough, two years after opening for Coldplay, Eisley released their full-length debut Room Noises in February 2005.
Early on, there were two things that struck me about Eisley. First, is the band's vocal similarity to Sixpence None the Richer. Their two vocalists, Sherri and Stacy Dupree, sound uncannily like Leigh Nash of Sixpence, their wavering harmonies providing the perfect fit for the band's lovely folk-pop songs. Second, is that despite their young age (half the band members are still in their teens), Eisley is a fairly seasoned band, having put out two solid EPs (their Laughing City debut and Marvelous Things) prior to Room Noises.
Unsurprisingly, Room Noises opens with a dash of familiarity, with four of its first five songs taken from those two EPs ("Telescope Eyes" and "I Wasn't Prepared" appeared on Laughing City while "Memories" and "Marvelous Things" are taken from their second EP). While opening an album with a slew of older material might be seen as "recycling hits" by some, this unusual move can be easily justified since Eisley's older songs are simply too good to be left pining away on EPs. Rerecorded (and at times re-written) for Room Noises, these early highlights are a nice offering by Eisley, introducing newer fans to material they might otherwise have missed.
Room Noises starts off with "Memories," a complex and haunting ballad (about the loss of a husband) that opens the album on a surprisingly dark tone. Featuring a slow-building climax and interplaying vocals by Sherri and Stacy, "Memories" showcases Eisley's melodic, yet ambitious, approach to songwriting early on. It's an unorthodox opener that gives way to the infectious, sunny pop of "Telescope Eyes" - a catchy Tegan and Sara-type song that provides the ideal foil for Eisley's dark opener. The pattern continues with "I Wasn't Prepared," a slow piano-driven ballad that is promptly followed by the bouncy, country-tinged "Golly Sandra." By the time the first half of Room Noises wraps up, it's clear that Eisley is just as comfortable writing moody ballads as they are in writing 3-minute pop gems.
Despite the merits of these older compositions, the other songs on the album are by no means less ambitious or accomplished. In fact, it's during the second half of the album that Room Noises really takes off. The band puts together a string of irresistibly perfect songs from start to finish and it's hard for the listener not to get tugged along by the gorgeous melodies. Whether it's the layered verses of "Brightly Wound," the fantastic images of "Lost at Sea" or the shimmering vocals of "My Lovely," there's an innate beauty to these songs that is undeniable. The band continues to show a wonderful ear for melody with the tender acoustic ballad "Just Like We Do," the marvelously flowing "Plenty of Paper" and the bittersweet "One Day I Slowly Floated Away." They top it all off with the simple, yet charming "Trolley Wood."
Overall, there is an air of childlike innocence that surrounds Room Noises. The lyrics are full of playful imagery and fanciful narratives, evoking images of humming meadows, make-believe, and never growing up. Room Noises is a fairy-tale set to music, and to be honest, these songs are much too pretty to be about anything else. Even in its darker moments, this album has a sweet sense of optimism that is never lost. Room Noises is a beautiful record from this young band, managing to effortlessly meld old with the new. It is both a refreshing look at the past and a bold step forward for Eisley, making it one of the best early releases of the year.- Review date: 5/4/05, written by Sherwin Frias
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