Knowing the members of Sianvar, the quality of their work should never have been up for debate. Featuring members of Dance Gavin Dance, A Lot Like Birds, Hail the Sun, and Stolas, the lineup is a veritable who’s-who of modern progressive rock. It was never a secret that Sianvar was made up of talented members, but I don’t know if anyone expected the group’s debut full-length to sound as good as it does. Stay Lost almost makes the members’ previous outings look like warm ups.
Maybe I’m just still struggling to process how “Stay Lost” transforms from a mathy post-hardcore anthem into an eerie indie rock track without missing a beat. It’s possible that my thoughts on “Omniphobia” – with its jump from frenetic, dizzying guitar riffs to a pummeling chorus to an almost tribal bridge to a guitar solo straight out of the seventies – are clouding the album. It’s impossible to deny the band’s skill at throwing so many disparate sounds together and still coming out with a cohesive song. On another record, “Stay Lost” and “Omniphobia” might be two or three different songs each, and that might work well together. But the band makes it work, and it’s pretty cool, if a bit cluttered.
The band does straightforward (relatively speaking, of course) just as well. Take the one-two punch of “Coordinate Love” and “1100 Days.” These two songs are the most outwardly hook-focused on the album, and come out among the best on the album for it. On the former, vocalist Donovan Melero turns in his best vocal performance on the record, his voice soaring as he sings, “I walk her home/I’ll always let you go,” during the song’s bridge. It ends up being one of the catchiest moments on the album, surpassing even its massive pop-punk-leaning chorus. On the “whoa-oh” laden “1100 Days,” the band provides both some of their most intimidating technical work and some of their most accessible moments. More or less, the song is about the perfect distillation of Sianvar’s sound, wrapped up in five minutes.
As much as Stay Lost seems to have something for everyone, it can also be overwhelming at times. The constant dueling riffs could get to be a bit much for listeners unfamiliar with the genre, and half of the songs fall around the five-minute mark. The rapid changes in style from verse to verse coupled with the barrage of complex riffs, the album’s longer runtime can wear on some. And while the band shows off a myriad of styles, they rarely stick to one for long. The constant genre hopping can get annoying, as certain ideas seem only half-developed in the rush to fill up each song with so many different sounds. Still, it’s clear that Sianvar is a band willing to take risks, even beyond what other bands in the genre try. That alone is praiseworthy. But for the band to pull it off, for the most part, as well as they do, is even more so. Hopefully on the follow-up, they’ll scratch beyond the surface of various genres, and dig a bit deeper into a couple others. When they stick to one take on a style, like “Coordinate Love’s” experimental-rock-song-through-pop-song lens, they’re able to craft some of the best songs of the year. And I guess something like that is enough to earn them the title of a super group.