Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin’s 2005 debut was a home-recorded batch of earnest indie pop that displayed enough potential to gain a wide following and sow serious anticipation for the band’s follow-up. On Pershing, the chirpy Missourians professionalize their production values and instrumentation but keep to their saccharine roots, landing somewhere between the Scottish banjo-twee of Boy Least Likely To and the bland folk rock of the Bodeans. If you’ve listened to Chutes Too Narrow and Oh, Inverted World a billion times each but think Wincing the Night Away is too experimental, or you’re the music supervisor for an O.C.-reunion special, you will find much to love on Pershing. If not, Boris Yeltsin will come across just a little too cozily familiar, a band that’s hard to dislike but even harder to get excited about.
Philip Dickey and John Robert Cardwell split the lead vocals, though it’s hard to tell who sings what: Both voices recall a similarly characterless concoction of Elliott Smith, James Mercer, and Ben Gibbard. Catchy ornaments like handclaps and horn lines drop in and out of the mix, but for the most part, the formula of acoustic-pop jangle is adhered to precisely. “Maybe if I lay low, love will come around my door,” goes one lyric on the breezy album opener “Glue Girl”; it’s the kind of line that might make Natalie Portman swoon. “Oceanographer” contains some mild-mannered guitar shredding and witty lyrical riffs on authorship; would that Boris Yeltsin were clever enough to turn the joke on themselves and include a line about “popographers.” Unfortunately there is nothing here approaching the level of “Pangea,” a standout track from their home-recorded 2005 debut Broom that had us forgiving the Weezer replication and simply getting lost in an irresistible tune.
Members of the Shins had wallowed in New Mexican obscurity for years as the forgettable pop-rock outfit Flake Music before Sub Pop finally brought James Mercer’s overwrought gemstones to the rest of the nation. Given the attention Boris Yeltsin has already garnered, it’s probably too late for them to similarly hone their skills outside of the limelight. One can only imagine what might have been had they hung around Missouri for a few more years, chosen a better name, and given their music adequate time to germinate.