Defining themselves on both their Facebook and BandCamp pages as “buttcore” and “yolo-fi,” and featuring a strong slacker aesthetic lyrically, the surface of Sioux Falls may at first obscure the indie rock mastery that is taking place on a sonic level with this release. That is entirely fine though, as “Rot Forever” is the album that ‘90s kids have been waiting on for years: seemingly tailored from equal parts “Lonesome Crowded West,” “Keep It Like A Secret,” “Icky Mettle,” “Green Mind” and “Ferment.” It also appears primed to become the anthem album for a new era – a vibrant, sprawling collection that manages to sound effortlessly loose while it draws you deeper into a tightly-constructed web of simple-yet-fiery hooks.
RELEASE DATE: 19 February 2016 LABEL: Broken World Media
Hailing from Portland, Oregon by way of Bozeman, Montana, Sioux Falls is a trio of guys who present common-man riffs and stream-of-consciousness colloquialisms with a sense of aplomb that is at once intoxicating but entirely tangible. If you are seeking face-melting technical prowess you may want to look elsewhere, but what they accomplish here is just as, if not more impressive – turning the simple into the sublime. The comparisons are all apt. In particular, you will hear reminiscences of Modest Mouse, Built to Spill and Archers of Loaf, but this is no paltry throwback or gimmicky tribute band. They aren’t going to suck you in with one of two killer tracks, then leave you to wade through an album filled out with afterthoughts. What ultimately separates Sioux Falls is that they seem to simply be MADE out of hooks, and that is not a gift you can fake.
The immediate standout tracks, “3fast,” “Copy/Paste,” “San Francisco Earthquake,” “Soaked In Sleep,” or “If You Let It,” for instance, are all screaming out to become a part of the collective voice of this generation’s canon. However, you can find something to champion in virtually every song, and at 16 tracks, this isn’t the typical album construction that we are used to in the BandCamp world of short-form collections. Much like last year’s best album, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die’s “Harmlessness,” “Rot Forever” is a lengthy work that has very few holes. It is one of those ever-valuable records that you can play straight through without ever being compelled to skip forward. While the album is driven by the aforementioned tracks, it is the consistent quality of the surrounding songs that acts as the anchor. Two-minute burners like the back-to-back “In Case It Gets Lost” and “Practice Space” could have easily become filler, except they don’t. They provide satisfying bursts of anthemic fury and deeply-earnest open chords in the space of barely four minutes, adding unexpected weight where otherwise they may have simply been an uninspired bridge between more fully fleshed-out tracks.
“3fast” sets an early tone of half-seriousness, with references to “South Park,” and streams of consciousness that, at one point conclude with singer Isaac Eiger trailing off in the middle of a verse about how he thinks some guy “is a fucking dick,” but maybe it’s actually just him, then he stops and mumbles “…I can’t explain.” The awkward-everyman nature of the lyrics is something that will likely resonate with many listeners, and encourage a sense of identification with Sioux Falls that could lend them a strong cult reputation. Musically, they also give a sense of free-wheeling looseness that is refreshing, and also fairly rare. It is a quality that made other Pacific Northwest bands like Modest Mouse and Built To Spill into indie legends back in the mid-90s, so it is exciting to see a new band stride confidently into this exclusive forum. By the time you reach the midway point of “Copy/Paste,” though, you will find the idea that this music is less-than-carefully arranged to be a fallacy. This is a band of craftsman. They understand what their tools are, they know how to use them, and they know exactly what it is they are seeking to construct. To our benefit, the results are often magical, like the extended instrumental section that closes out this track. It is driven by a deceptively simple guitar part that is brimming with with a vague sense of sadness, which is balanced perfectly by a vibrant, pulsing drum and bass accompaniment.
This closing segment, as well as the group-chanted refrains of “San Francisco Earthquake,” and the melancholic drive of “Soaked in Sleep” all help to build, piece by piece, towards “If You Let It,” the eight-and-a-half-minute showpiece of “Rot Forever.” Although it is a step away from the predominant tone of the album, this song is the clearest indicator of the power that Sioux Falls is capable of. It is propelled by a sweeping sense of sadness, and this is where the colloquialism of the lyrics is able to shine brightest. Eiger is able to convey so much boiling just under the surface with lines like: “I miss my dog and my sister/She’ll graduate in the summer/All those asshole boyfriends with holes inside/They pick at her heart; I’ve watched her cry/All night/Ellie, you’ll be okay/Sometimes it feels so horrible/But you know you can’t push it away/You just need to sit and cry awhile/And try and ride out the pain/It goes away/If you let it.” If you can’t feel those words rock your core, I’m not sure what to tell you. This is all supported by another simple, restrained guitar riff, basslines that offer solid secondary melodies, and strong, purposeful drumming. It eventually builds to a crashing release that exudes the kind of sincerity and feeling that should make anyone entrenched in the emo revival stand up and cheer.
It should also be noted that Sioux Falls accomplishes this from a platform that is not entirely aligned with that scene, which makes it all the more impressive. The outro recalls the ending of “Copy/Paste,” reinforcing the idea that there is strong connective tissue between these two tracks. Of anything on this record, “If You Let It” is the song that serves notice. Sioux Falls is coming, and you had better be prepared.
Lest they end on such a serious note, “Rot Forever” concludes with the pleasing, two-minute open chord anthem “The Winner,” reminding us not to take any of this TOO seriously. It’s really the perfect closing note for this album, which restores a sense of fun and adventure that has been missing from many of the indie rock offerings I have heard in the past few years. This is not to say that all of their contemporaries are out there sad-sacking around with somber faces; that is obviously not true, but the fact that Sioux Falls still manages to stand out so clearly is a testament to this record’s strengths. It has been a while now since I have heard a release that has translated plain-faced, youthful exuberance to the listener’s ears with the same success as “Rot Forever.” Grab a hold of these guys now, because it is looking to be a killer ride.