Pinback – Blue Screen Life

Blue Screen Life

I’ve been hearing people talk about Pinback for almost a year now, and so it seemed I had to pick up the San Diego band’s second full-length album. Featuring members of 3 Mile Pilot and Heavy Vegetable / Thingy, I thought it would be interesting, to say the least. Not at all what I was expecting, Pinback’s unique, fluid style of rock is at times angular, at times poppy, but always stellar.
The band somehow got lumped in with emo bands, but they’re most definitely not emo. Although hints of the kind of post-punk emotional nature of a band like Camden can be heard, the band’s sound instead seems somewhere between a mathy sort of rock and an avant-garde rock style that I’d equate with a more guitar-focused National Skyline. Using plenty of keyboards for a sort of lush and hypnotic backdrop to the very fluid, mid-tempo, almost poppy songs layered with melody, the band’s creative core duo trade vocals back and forth.
The first thing you’ll notice about this album is that you have to turn the volume up. It’s not a loud album, and it appears to be mixed even more quiet than usual. Turn it up for the angular guitar notes that kick off the very fluid “Offline P.K.” A bit more poppy, there’s something of a Death Cab for Cutie sound to the almost sweet “Concrete Seconds,” and the almost folk bent to “Boo” brings to mind Elliot Smith, with that songwriter’s style of croon. The deep, rich bass and handclap-like percussion lend a different feel to “Penelope.”
There’s something a bit mathy about the guitar lines on “X I Y,” only slowed down, with piano dribbled throughout. That’s even more obvious on the aptly (or slyly) named “Prog,” with its more up-beat rhythm. One of my favorite songs, however, would have to be “Seville.” Centered around a drum machine-type beat, the song has guitar loops and a head-bobbing rhythm, along with vocals that are at times almost hypnotizing. Almost completely different, there’s something of a psychedelic feel to the piano-led “West,” and “Trees” closes the album with a very mellow, moody, and sweetly flowing piece.
Certainly this is an album and a band that live up to my expectations. These songs are tight and precise, flowing with layers of guitars and vocals, full of tuneful melodies and lush atmospherics. At times lovely, at times more intense, Blue Screen Life is an impressive result from a band that was started solely as a side project.