For the longest time, no one knew who Sir Sly was. The Los Angeles electro-indie trio kept their identities hidden during their initial releases, revealing themselves only after the single “Ghost” reached The Hype Machine’s coveted No. 1 spot. A year and a half later, Sir Sly (aka Landon Jacobs, Jason Suwito and Hayden Coplen) are finally releasing their long-awaited debut album, You Haunt Me, out September 16th via Cherrytree.
You Haunt Me is a dark and mysterious masterpiece. Sir Sly carry with them a distinctive sound fused from a plethora of musical influences. The band describes their genre with the hashtag “sly-fi” on their SoundCloud account, which according to coiner Jason Suwito, represents “the mix of electronic and rock elements.” Hip-hop styled drums with deep, pulsating bass lines create a full sound that helps Sir Sly to differentiate themselves from their peers in other West Coast acts. “There are tons of young LA bands right now, and we were inspired to be different,” says band member Hayden Coplen. The band certainly succeeded in that aspect; Sir Sly’s uniqueness makes them all the more exciting to experience. Imagine a collaboration between Foster the People and The Neighbourhood: Now throw in the dark poetry of The Doors’ Jim Morrison and the heaviness of contemporaries like MS MR and The xx for good measure. As children, we are taught to not use a word in its own description, but You Haunt Me is nothing short of haunting.
Listen: “Where I’m Going” – Sir Sly
Listen: “Ghost” – Sir Sly
The past year has seen a significant amount of built-up anticipation for Sir Sly’s debut. In fact, the album’s first five tracks, consisting of “Where I’m Going,” “Ghost,” “Gold,” “You Haunt Me” and “Found You Out” are already released and available for download. “Where I’m Going” is the perfect entrance to the album, setting a mellow, dark and heavy melodic atmosphere that permeates through the following eleven tracks. Album openers “Where I’m Going” and “Ghost” also contain another key Sir Sly ingredient – airy, high background harmonies that contrast against the bass-heavy instrumentation. This subtly added texture creates a sonic balance across the frequency spectrum that helps to provide a sense of fulfillment to the music. With heavy, deep bass below and high harmonies and keyboard/synthesizer tones above, Landon Jacobs’ mid-range vocals fill the void and complete Sir Sly’s musical brand.
The next three songs on the album find Sir Sly applying their unique sound to a variety of song structures. The highly repetitive “Gold” is sung in a rap-like manner, echoing the band’s hip-hop influence. Its hypnotic refrain (“Mouth is made of metal, metal, metal, pocketful of yellow, yellow, yellow”) becomes increasingly powerful and evocative as the song progresses. The songs “You Haunt Me” and “Found You Out” are the first remotely ‘pop’ tracks on the album. Sir Sly display a softer side in these tunes, which find the band dealing with relationships (“Now I know we didn’t fit I wish I could’ve quit Did having sex with other men make you feel you were relevant?”). Both songs are also the first to show Sir Sly dipping into the major key, which is refreshing after the openers’ brooding ambience.
Listen: “Gold” – Sir Sly
The first half of You Haunt Me ends with the song, “Nowhere / Bloodlines, Pt. I,” the first of a two-parter which finds Sir Sly digging into the depths of their musical and lyrical prowess. This sparse, drum-powered song (think The Temper Trap) finds the band embarking down a road of dark and complex human concepts: Finding purpose and meaning to one’s existence, learning or discovering life lessons from one’s mistakes, and questioning one’s internal understanding about the world around. Poignant lyrics abound as the band wonders the point of it all, including their own music and songwriting:
You woke me up in the middle of the night
Lit a candle and we bathed in the light
You said you’re scared of the city we’re in
I wanna make it better but I can’t begin
We’ll make it alright
Write another story we’re fine…
You said you know that you’re going nowhere
I’ll follow you there
(further into the song…)
I’ll try to figure out how to say this
I’m losing my mind in these mazes
I’m losing my mind in these pages
There’s blood on my hands I can taste it
“Nowhere” transitions into “Bloodlines, Pt. I,” a bleek atmospheric piece that humanizes the band as Jacobs’ soft voice paints a grim canvas of love loss, heartbreak and aching. Thus ends part one of You Haunt Me.
Between the two “Bloodlines” tracks lies a streak of introspective thought overlaid with dark electro-indie pop. MS MR’s Lizzy Plapinger joins Jacobs in singing the fast-paced “Inferno.” Plapinger’s vocals fit perfectly alongside Jacobs’; her addition is unexpected, but the female presence adds to the song and the album’s strengths. The verses, sung quickly like raps, evoke an intense degree of poetic imagery: “I think you clipped my wings to save me from the sun / Forgot my hands and knees, I had to learn a lesson.” The song’s high energy and intensity form a stark contrast to the previous “Bloodlines, Pt. I,” hailing the second half of the album in the fury of, well, an inferno.
Listen: “Inferno (ft. Lizzy Plapinger)” – Sir Sly
Another notable track on the album’s second half is the ethereal song, “Floods” (“What the hell did I do wrong? Doesn’t matter, now you’re gone”), which, when stripped down, is a retrospective look at a failed relationship. However, to describe the song as such without mention of its abstract lyricism is a great disservice: “They say that no one’s an island themselves, that’s the reason I came to you when you know that I needed help.” Colorful words form scenes within which Sir Sly’s music flourishes on “Floods,” “Leave You” and “Too Far Gone”
Sir Sly continue to question and tangle with dark, philosophically dense subject matter in the album’s closer, a Lorde-like vocal-centric “Helpless / Bloodlines, Pt. II.” The album’s closing track finds the band at their most honest and naked state. “Helpless” begins with a deep, EDM-like bass synth/electronic drum kit combination. The instrumentation sets the stage for the album’s final confrontation:
It’s not that I’m lost
I know exactly where I am
I’m in the middle of a mess
That I don’t understand
Why does it feel like the world’s
Stealing every single thing that I have?
I only got the air in my chest
And even that won’t last
The affected, mortal darkness established in “Helpless” feeds into pure and utter vulnerability in “Bloodlines, Pt. II.” With echoes of “Helpless” still present, an acoustic guitar accompanied by piano bass and stripped drum sets a quiet, unnerving scene. Though the music is sparse, the emotion is anything but serene as Jacobs brings the album to completion:
Everything I know is finally gone
The things I had, the ones I love
The realized ending to an album full of emotional turmoil presents a sense of quiet chaos in the absence of acceptance. The musicality of this piece is superb, evoking the song’s lyrical sadness with perfectly synchronized chordal and melodic changes. The song’s final lyrics, like that of “Bloodlines, Pt. I,” fade as You Haunt Me ends in unresolved completion: “Draw a picture with your bloodlines, a picture with your bloodlines; a thousand words, then escape.” The final chord of this minor musical piece, hit on the word “escape,” is deceptively major. The music ultimately withdraws into silence, yet despite the questions left unanswered and music unresolved, these last moments of You Haunt Me are touched with strange sense of warmth in finality.
Who is the “you” of You Haunt Me? Is the album directed toward a person in particular? The album deals with biblical themes of saving and helplessness, and “you” may be directed toward a greater being. Furthermore, the subject may be in reference to a nonbeing entirely: “You” may be a reference to humanity, human nature, or the concepts of life, mortality and being.
Sir Sly discuss notions that everyone thinks about and experiences, but they do so with clever and engaging lyricism that is both resonating and thought-provoking. The band takes deep questions and burns them bare in a non-depressive manner, digging into the core principles of humanity without complaint about what they discover. They begin the album by establishing this answer-seeking mentality in “Where I’m Going.” The seemingly bleak lack of answers in the album’s ending may, itself, be the band’s interpreted answer to their heavy questions: In the end, are we left nothing, not even the air in our chest?
In addition to writing meaningful lyrics, Sir Sly make impressive and catchy music. Their instrumental and vocal arrangements not only balance their songs and ultimately the album, but also display a fine-tuned understanding of musical appeal. When Sir Sly catch upon a good hook, they squeeze every last drop out of it. At the same time, the band employs silence skillfully, taking care to contrast volumes effectively and to not overdo any one motif. Sir Sly’s sound is heavy and dark, yet it is neither obtrusive nor melancholic. A mix of hip-hop, electronic and rock influences combine to form an as-of-yet untapped musical reservoir. Sir Sly may not have broken the mold per se, but they have certainly produced something new, exciting and noteworthy. As a reminder, this is a new band who wrote, recorded and produced their album in its entirety.
Dark and stormy yet musically challenging and unique, You Haunt Me is a work of art and Sir Sly are a welcomed new artist. The ability to craft a truly memorable and continuous music album is rare, and to do so on a debut is all the more impressive. With You Haunt Me, Sir Sly have established an ambitious base from which they may take off in any number of creative directions. The best part about this act is that they are just getting started; considering their busy tour schedule, it seems there is quite a bit of air left in their chests.
Catch Sir Sly while you can, and download You Haunt Me on September 16th!
Listen: “You Haunt Me” – Sir Sly
For fans of: Radiohead, The 1975, Sky Ferreira, Temper Trap, MS MR, The Neighbourhood
CHERRYTREE PRESENTS CO-HEADLINE TOUR WITH SIR SLY & WOLF GANG
All Ages = #
8/25 Dallas, TX Club Dada #
8/26 Houston, TX Fitzgeralds #
8/27 Austin, TX Parish #
8/29 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Culture Room #
8/30 Orlando, FL The Social #
9/2 Atlanta, GA The Earl #
9/4 Richmond, VA The National #
9/5 Myrtle Beach, SC WKZQ’s Big Night Out @ House of Blues #
9/6 Charlotte, NC 1065 Weenie Roast @ PNC Music Pavillion#
9/7 Raleigh, NC The 95X Big Shindig @ Walnut Creek Amp#
9/8 Washington DC U Street #
9/10 New York, NY Stage48 (18+)
9/11 Albany, NY The Hollow #
9/12 Boston, MA Brighton Music Hall (18+)
9/13 Philadelphia, PA Radio 104.5 Summer Block Party#
9/15 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE #
9/16 Columbus, OH The Basement #
9/17 St. Louis, MO Firebird #
9/18 Milwaukee, WI The Rave #
9/19 Chicago, IL Subterranean (17+)
9/20 Minneapolis, MN Triple Rock (18+)
9/22 Kansas City, MO Riot Room (21+)
9/24 Colorado Springs, CO Black Sheep #
9/25 Denver, CO Marquis Theatre #
9/27 Phoenix, AZ Crescent Ballroom (16+)
9/28 San Diego, CA Irenic #
9/29 Los Angeles, CA El Rey #
Learn more about Sir Sly online at sir-sly.com