Eisley’s The Valley fails to live up to expectations

These are promising times for female-fronted bands. From the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Metric, to Florence and the Machine and Adele, to She & Him and Beach House, bands with female leads are rapidly emerging and making a strong impact on modern music. Eisley is one of these bands.

Eisley doesn’t have just one female member to boast about. They have three of them, three sisters in fact, along with a brother and a cousin.  This Texas-based alternative rock family band has been around since 1997, when the members were mere teenagers.

After opening for Coldplay on the Rush of Blood to the Head tour, Eisley experienced a surge of interest from many types of fans. Fourteen years into their musical career, Eisley is back with their third studio album, titled The Valley, which recounts the hardships that some of the members have encountered during the past few years, including a marriage’s demise and a broken engagement.

Because of these occurrences, the album is riddled with feelings of loss and despair as well as moments of independence and perseverance. But while they try to tackle emotions, they seem to lose ground musically, an area where they once displayed great ability.

The album starts off strongly with the title track “The Valley,” which opens with brisk, driving strings and sweetly defiant vocals from Stacy DuPree, the band’s keyboardist. The lively flow of the piano and strings take an abrupt change in direction at the chorus with the entrance of distorted guitars and an unexpected chord outside of the melodic spectrum of the song’s key. This change marks the beginning of a heavier feel present throughout a good portion of the album. Along with the instrumentation of the song, the lyrics also work to set a tone for the album by employing disheartening images of “fire kites” at motion in the sky and of tirelessly trudging the “night in the valley” in search of inner peace and calm.

The album pushes onward with the unapologetic “Smarter,” the heaviest track on the album as a result of harsh guitar chords, screaming guitar lines and Sherri DuPree’s unrelenting anger towards the one who induced pain in her life.

Following this track is “Watch It Die,” another song about loss in which Stacy mixes a more traditional vocal pattern with a jumpy falsetto similar to the vocal style of Regina Spektor. It’s at this point in the album when a repetition begins to occur.

For several songs, there is an alternation between a heavier Sherri-led track and a gloomy-yet-bouncy, heavily falsetto Stacy-led track.  Most, if not all, of these songs are about loss and the emotional impact of an end of a relationship. It’s not that these middle tracks are bad; it’s just that they merge together into one track if you consider the symmetrical nature of the alternation.

The album seemingly enters its own valley and continues to trek across mediocre flatland for a portion of it.

The latter half of the album, however, brings rise to the richer songs on the album. “Better Love” starts off the upward progression out of the valley and into a promising territory. The track combines the heavier aspects of Sherri’s tracks with Stacy’s elegant piano playing and backing vocal lines, fusing the two styles to produce a solid alternative rock track.

The next track, “I Wish,” plays out much more like a song that Eisley was meant to create, with lush harmonies and pleasant melody lines that accentuate the sisters’ wonderful voices.  “Kind” starts off with the familiar piano lines and falsetto vocals of Stacy, but once the song starts going, beautiful string lines and graceful piano chords propel this uplifting, whimsical journey that is one of the strongest tracks on the album. Also, the track “Mr. Moon,” which is Sherri’s best track, could have easily marked the ending of the album.

Overall, The Valley has its share of up and downs, its moments of disappointment and moments of redemption. It contains emotional depth but also replays some of the same themes over and over again, understandably due to their personal struggles. The album also contains some heavier instrumentation than previous albums, with some of the crunch being less musical than it could have been.

However, when the album does reach its high points, it does so with splendor and grace, presenting some of Eisley’s finest tracks. As a whole, it may not be as strong as previous releases from the band, but it is an enjoyable album that is well worth many listens.


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