Musings on music delivered when I dig myself out.

Eisley -- Room Noises
Reprise Records; 2005

While it's probably unfair to boil a band down to a single word, I still think the best way to describe Eisley is to call them cute. From the moment the Dupree sisters (then 15, 13, and eight) picked up guitars and recruited their brother and boy next door Jonathan Wilson in 1997, being adorable has followed Eisley through their career. Eight years has passed, and now on their long anticipated debut LP, Room Noises, it's clear that the group still intends to ride cute all the way to the bank, as innocent as can be. It's not that I think they're trying to pull the wool over listeners' eyes. Everything from their thin, waif-like appearance to their lulling melodies is certainly precious; however, it's uncertain whether that's enough to keep the good ship Eisley afloat.

Within the first 30 seconds of Room Noises, it's quickly apparent that cute does not necessarily equate novelty. On the melancholic opener, "Memories," the girls pour forth soaring vocals (reminiscent of The Sundays or a thicker Rilo Kiley) that narrate the tune and meld with each other. Often one sister will take the lead, singing an amber-hewn melody before handing it off to a sibling who does likewise. Choruses in Eisley songs are a lavish affair, as they are often the converging point of all three sisters' voices. The slightly country-tinged "Marvelous Things" is a gleaming example, with a molasses sweet vocal blend that could make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The quality of said harmonies is often so good that songs are picturesque, even if you're too mellowed out to pay attention to lyrics. It's almost enough to make you want to hug one of the sisters for being so darn endearing.

Eisley is less of a powerhouse in the instrumental section, as the girls' vocals do most of the heavy lifting and are the group's focus. While many bands will create vocals to compliment the song, Eisley is the other way around. As such, each track is tailored to its vocal melody, ranging from chiming and chipper ("Plenty of Paper") to languid and somber ("My Lovely"). Combined with the lush three part harmonies the songs are designed around, the group's sound can be a charming affair.

Oftentimes though, charming is not enough. Because Eisley likes to repeat the formula of taking a suitable melody and expanding it to a drawn out harmony so often, many of the tracks are indistinguishable and unmemorable. Certain hooks stand out here and there, but I'll be damned if I can tell you which songs they are in without a few minutes time to browse. It's a shame that the group's penchant for making use of their strongest trait betrays them and leaves them with a rather homogenous album.

Taken bit by bit, Room Noises is a solid debut album. The group's long eight years together has shown them exactly what buttons to push and how to push them in order to make something gorgeous. But as any video gamer will tell you, doing the same combo over and over again can be irritating and reminiscent of cheating. With time they'll probably get adventurous and try new combinations, but for the time being, their sound is best suited for moments on teen dramas that make you say "awww!"

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