I've been collecting Silversun Pickups albums since I got into them in 2016 or so. I have them across CD, vinyl, and a few stray digital downloads. My collection is unfortunately a little lacking (I still don't own Widow's Weeds), but in other ways, it's rather esoteric.
Because I'm an opinionated little monkey, I'll also talk about the quality of the records I've got, talk about how I feel listening to the Pickups in certain ways, tell you what else I've got on the Christmas list, and I'm throwing in what I've got from the rest of the Ship bands in there, because any chance I get to talk about Ship stuff, I take.
Silversun Pickups CDs
I've got the entire main run of their albums, not including Widow's Weeds as said. I bought them all from a lot on eBay, since I figured it'd be cheaper than buying the albums separately. They all play nice and sound as good as you get with these albums.
I also own Title TBA, a Dangerbird Carnavas promo from after the album was finished, but before it had a name. Unfortunately, there's no special, less compressed mixes or even alternate versions of songs on this thing like I'd hoped. That's a recurring trend you'll see; information on some of this stuff is so scarce, I just have to buy it and see if it was what I hoped for.
- Pikul (2007 repress)
- Carnavas (2006 first issue)
- Title TBA (Carnavas promo)
- Swoon (2009 first issue)
- Neck of the Woods (2012 first issue)
- Better Nature (2015 first issue)
Ship + compilation CDs
The Ship band I have the most from other than the Pickups is Earlimart. I bought Everyone Down Here after I heard "Burning the Cow" on The Fold Compilation and love that album. Imagine my hype when I found there was an EP that was basically more of the same album, and that was The Avenues, which I probably listen to more often than Everyone. Everyone is also an enhanced CD featuring ancient MP3s of the entire album in a slightly unique mix too, without crossfades (so for example, "Burning the Cow"'s intro drumbeat isn't accompanied by the noise from the "05" interlude). Very neat.
I just recently got Hymn and Her after listening to it online for ages. I really like Earlimart. They're less on the big fuzzy guitar end of rock and more on the almost classicist pop end of the spectrum, even occasionally featuring piano ballads. Hymn and Her is very chamber pop inspired, almost like old Christmas music. Kinda makes you wish it was mixed in mono.
Pine Marten's discography is unfortunately scattered, but I have lines on everything they've released, which amounts to a 45 with the Pickups, another 7", both sides featuring exclusive songs, Beautiful Stakes and Powerpoles, and two compilation appearances, Songs From the Ship and Real Fun: Polaroids from the Independent Music Landscape, which is a picture book with a CD compiled by Ashod Simonian of Panty Lions (and they're also his pictures, I believe). I have heard a clip of the song from that disc, "Pigeons", and it sounds ridiculously cool and dire and heavy and grand. Thankfully, that book doesn't go for a lot online, knock on wood.
Unfortunately, I've only got Beautiful Stakes at present. My copy of Songs From the Ship actually had the CD of another indie band from California in it, Anymore's Thistlestar EP. Obviously not a Ship band, obviously not the compilation, and a silver bottom pressed CD and not a CD-R like I assume the compilation came on. (And it was cracked to boot—physically unplayable.)
So alas, I have not gotten to hear the exclusive Pine Marten track on here. Some of the songs were on proper albums, like "Dreaming Of..." from Earlimart or "Sway" by Panty Lions, so I've heard those, but others, including one of the Pine Marten songs, were exclusive to this disc. It's obscure, but I think I can score another copy. Stay tuned.
I only have one Irving record in the bunch, Death in the Garden Blood on the Flowers, which is super catchy. Some would call it disposable, but really, it's just a really good pop rock album. I actually knew Irving prior to knowing Silversun Pickups; "I Want to Love You in My Room" used to come up on Pandora under Brad Sucks Radio, and I love that song. Imagine my surprise when they tied into this whole weird Ship thing I was digging into too...
As far as other compilations go, the aforementioned Fold Compilation, a bunch of bands booked to play the Silverlake Lounge by Scott Sterling's booking company The Fold (I don't know if they're operational anymore), is excellent. alaska! (who backed Lou Barlow in the New Folk Implosion) put up a terrific racket, Midnight Movies are great, Metric has a cool demo of one of the songs from their debut album, Earlimart as said, Devics, The 88, Devendra Banhart, John Gold, and Gwendolyn (Sanford)—they all have great songs on there. You'll probably find some other stuff you like if you like obscure West Coast indie rock.
Finally, the Intravenous set was a recent purchase (as of writing this, January 2022). It's not necessary by any means, but I liked a couple of the songs on it other than the "Lazy Eye". It seems to be a label promo, and I guess that SSPU were featured because Aeronaut Records (the real label behind the Intravenous imprint) were either big fans of the band, or actively trying to court them into a record deal. Aeronaut, like Dangerbird, are still operation and still put out roughly one record every ten months.
- Pine Marten - Beautiful Stakes and Powerpoles
- Earlimart - The Avenues EP
- Earlimart - Everyone Down Here
- Earlimart - Hymn and Her
Silversun Pickups Vinyl
My luck with the Pickups on vinyl has not been great. For one thing, they write very long albums that vinyl simply isn't suited for, so they're usually broken up over two discs with three songs a side. (Vinyl has a max comfortable playing time of twenty minutes per side. If you cram more music on a side, you start to lose dynamic range and volume because the grooves have to be physically thinner, otherwise they collapse in on themselves. Physics are fun!) It's annoying to flip a disc every three songs.
The other reason I'm not fond of the band on vinyl is because these usually just tend to be the CD masters of their music pressed onto vinyl. They sound good, maybe a little bottom-heavy, but good! But no better than the CD. Still very loudness war-inspired masters. I have heard that one of the issues of Pikul has a unique master without any compression, but I was an idiot and bought the wrong pressing (mine's a black 12" as opposed to the coke bottle clear 12" that the review was left on), so it sounds basically like my CD. Given that the sound quality isn't improved by the format, and given that it's just less convenient, there's no reason to seek them out over the CD issues.
I'm probably not gonna be keeping these, but they are nostalgic. This is how I first owned any of their music, and my first digital copies were the MP3s included with the vinyls. (320kbps MP3s, granted, and not FLACs like they really should be shipping with records at this point, but oh well.) I've got Carnavas, Swoon, and Pikul on vinyl, the Carnavas issue being the 2015 marbled brown/white pressing. They all play well and sound good, using the same master as the CD aside, and the Darren Waterston art is pretty terrific full-size. I'd like to know if he does wall prints.
I will say, I'd be open to rebuying Carnavas in the new Bandbox edition, purely for the band commentary and oral history of the band that comes with it. That set's a little pricey, so it's not really a priority, but if the price is right, yeah sure, why not?
What am I still after?
Believe it or not, my goal isn't to buy everything I have listed on this site! I'm a practical music fan; I don't want to get a single that's the exact same as the album version, but has cool packaging. That said, this is very much a neglected collection of mine, and I'd love to beef it up. Here's what I'd like to get first:
- Widow's Weeds
- Gotta complete the studio album collection! Probably on CD, but I feel like the album would be kinda cool on cassette, even if it's still all digital.
- Seasick and Let it Decay/Working Title
- Especially the latter. It's purely a vinyl release, and digital copies online tend to be rather scuffed and poor. If I could take a clean transfer at it (which would require a better record player, being real, mine's as basic as good gets), I'd happily put it up on YouTube for other folks to enjoy as well. Seasick got an MP3 release, but as far as I know, it's not being sold anymore.
- Carnavas (Japanese pressing)
- As far as I know, the import Carnavas is the only way to get properly lossless digital versions of "Mercury" and "Table Scraps". These come as MP3s with all editions of the vinyl, and they're the B-sides to some of the Carnavas vinyl singles, but one's lossy and the other requires a transfer. The Discogs going rate, especially for an import, doesn't seem too bad as of writing this, and those songs I think are pretty fantastic, definitely not just loose B-side material.
- The Singles Collection on vinyl
- This one is mostly songs I've already got, but it's got an exclusive and it's a cool collection of 45's in a neat wooden box form factor. The last 45, "Cannibal"/"Devils Cup", has the B-side exclusive to this set, and it's a cool B-side, and Cannibal is ironically the perfect song for a single because of how short and structured it is. Not really burning to get it, but price being right, I'd go for it.
- Other Ship band stuff
- For Earlimart, Treble and Tremble and Mentor Tormentor, which I've already heard and love. For Pine Marten: whatever's cheapest at the time of purchase. I get one song apiece from all of them, except the Big Old Bull 45, which has two exclusives. More Marten, please. (I'm not as familiar with the rest of the collective, but I'd happily try out more Let's Go Sailing or Sea Wolf or Irving sometime. I like what I've heard from all three.)
- Garbage's The Chemicals/On Fire 45
- Does this count? It counts to me. I love "The Chemicals". What a nasty sounding song. Brian's voice is all over it; you can especially hear him do his loud, high register in the second verse.