As a life-long resident of the Champaign-Urbana area, it’s hard for me to look at Elsinore without rose-tinted glasses. They’re arguably the biggest band to come out of Chambana in my life-time, and are one of the only “local” bands to tour outside of the midwest after every album release, including a recently-announced East Coast jaunt to follow up their latest release, Push/Pull. Whether it’s radio appearances, live shows, record signings or anything of the sort, the Champaign-Urbana community can’t seem to get enough of Elsinore.
Many things have changed since the Elsinore’s Sophomore album Yes Yes Yes, which seemingly catapulted them into this odd local superstardom. Thankfully, pretty much none have these changes have affected the musical integrity of the band, which still retains its un-apologetic and powerful sound, but are rather more present in personnel changes. Though frontman Ryan Groff and keyboardist Mark Woolwine are the backbone of the band, due to some last-minute drop outs, the group consists of an entirely new drummer and bassist for Push/Pull. Musically, however, nothing on this new albums seems to lack from Yes Yes Yes.
Though, as a local, it is hard for me to find any gripes with Elsinore, I have found a few, and I’ll get them out of the way early. Their sound is so poppy and so catchy that on my third listen of the album, I’ve found myself asking why they haven’t blown up yet. How is it possible that a band whose catalog consists of as many powerful Groff-backed choruses and remarkable guitar riffs hasn’t garnered nation-wide attention yet? The answer to this is still unknown to me, but can perhaps be based in the fact that they just aren’t innovating enough. Push/Pull sounds a lot like Yes Yes Yes on first listen. It sounds like the band hasn’t really grown up (though if you ask me, they didn’t really need to) which may be something that they need to do for more national recognition. I can only hope to see this release and subsequent releases on the front page of Pitchfork and Stereogum, but often times I fear that Elsinore’s time is running thin. I sincerely hope I’m wrong in this prediction because I honestly think Elsinore has the potential to explode on to the national scene if only given the chance.
Now that I’ve gotten the negatives and the fears out of my system, we can move on to looking at Push/Pull, an album that truly does shine on its own. As I stated before, many of the tracks on Push/Pull could be fit into Yes Yes Yes and the uninformed listener could never realize it. This isn’t a problem, however, as the newest album shines in its intricate subtleties. First and foremost, it is much more produced than Yes Yes Yes. The vocals are crisper, the guitars are more defined and the whole thing seems to flow just a bit easier from end to end.
Perhaps one of the best things about Push/Pull is the uncanny ability of frontman Ryan Groff to shine as a storyteller. Nearly every song not only hooks me in with his powerful cadence, but as it ends, I find myself having a seemingly emotional connection to the story being told, whether it is to the setting or the characters, which is a bizarrely unexpected and good feeling. Singing “this is going just the way you imagined it, from the smell in the air to the look on your face” in the song “Life Inside Of An Elephant”, Groff paints a picture that is both vivid and imaginative at the same time. This is one of many lines that induce this very feeling.
Elements of Elsinore’s poppy influence are everywhere throughout the record, as can be seen in the staccato keys in “Fatal Flaw” or the repeatable chorus of “Mislocation”, which I’ve found myself humming around campus well after first listen. Though some may see this as a negative, it’s simply not. It’s impossible, at least from all evidence I’ve gathered, to repeat these catchy lines back to yourself and not have a smile on your face.
The simple gem of the album, however, is neither upbeat nor positive, but rather more somber and reserved. ”New England” is a simple croon over keys that is emotionally raw. Just as you think the track is about to end on a somber note, the chorus rises once again, in typically Elsinore style, and reminds us just how versatile the band truly is. They can have rousing ballads, light and poppy tracks, and melancholy jams all on the same record. This track is one of the most beautiful I have heard all year, to be completely honest.
I understand that bands must grow, and it seems like Elsinore hasn’t done that much between their last two albums. Yes, a band should show progression. But with an album as good as Yes Yes Yes, it’s hard to not want them to make more of the same, and that’s just what Push/Pull is – a continuation of a great product. Cheers, gents.
Rating – W-P-G-1/4
Key Tracks – “New England”, “Mislocation”, and “Sinister Sister”
RIYL – Passion Pit, Foxygen, and Grizzly Bear
You can stream the entirety of Push/Pull below: