I’ll admit that I haven’t kept track of each of Pinback’s zigs and zags over the last couple of years as they’ve put out a handful of tour Eps and a single or two. They even had a full length in 2004, (Summer in Abaddon), which despite marking their rise to prominence with Touch and Go, went all but ignored by me. I was perfectly content to listen to the earlier Blue Screen Life over and over, and even recently the track Boo has found its way on to an embarrassing number of my mix tapes. That particular song however, embodies much of what I found attractive in the band- a chilly, almost haunted beauty created by airy vocals over layered, sometimes mechanical guitar and bass. Programmed drums and beats added to the math-y strangeness, and only augmented by the inclusion of sci-fi sound bites.
While no real diversion in terms of technique, Pinback’s Autumn of the Seraphs is a much more overt indie rock record, where some of the cool disassociation is replaced with a crunchy staccato. The opening track seems to set the tone, with snappy drums figuring prominently where they might have previously constituted little more than a metallic tinkle. There’s a punchy rhythmic quality that reminds me of Dismemberment Plan or, dare I say it, Modest Mouse. The more poppy notion is clear on tracks Good to Sea and Blue Harvest, which sound darn near happy. Bass and guitar share almost equal responsibility for creating melody, much as co-leaders Zach Smith and Rob Crow split, or rather cooperate on vocal interplay. Seraphs is not completely devoid of the spooky treatment though, as How We Breathe is a whispered journey into the prevalent oceanic theme and would have been perfectly at home on earlier releases.
This most recent collection of Pinback songs seems to make their eeriness a bit warmer, more accessible, and varied. It also may have lost some of the sort of singular hook that initially made me a fan. Like plenty of other records though, this one is a grower, and with familiarity comes favor. And without exception, Pinback has an ability to create atmosphere out of precision, an organic quality out of beats and programmed drums. This continued craftsmanship, while perhaps resulting in structure that is more space than mass, is the real endearing quality.