A lot has changed for the members of Eisley — the quintet from Tyler, Texas that consists of four siblings and their cousin — in the period between their last album, 2007’s “Combinations,” and their new record, “The Valley,” which is available in the U.S. today.
The latest offering is a quintessential breakup record whose title is indicative of the emotional lows the three DuPree sisters (who share leading roles in the band) experienced in the intervening years. Lead singer/guitarist Sherri went through a very public divorce from New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert after an eight-month marriage in 2007; guitarist Chauntelle had a broken engagement; and keyboardist Stacy also ended a relationship. (Their brother, drummer Weston DuPree, and cousin, bassist Garron DuPree, seem to be just along for the ride here.) The band also split with its longtime label, Warner Bros., last year.
Though the sisterly trio are all now happily married to other people, it’s evident most of the material was written in the immediate wake of their respective breakups. With song titles like “Sad,” “Watch It Die” and “I Wish,” “The Valley” never strays far lyrically from the themes of pain and heartbreak. Tracks like the “Grey’s Anatomy”-ready power ballad “Ambulance,” penned by Stacy, showcase the raw hurt of a recent loss.
But “The Valley” isn’t entirely a pity party. “Smarter” is particularly bitter, with Sherri (who is now married to Say Anything singer Max Bemis) crooning over angry guitars, “If you want to blame me, then go on / I’m smiling now ‘cause I’m smarter than you think.”
Longtime Eisley fans will be pleased to hear that the sisters’ harmonies are as strong as ever. But musically, the album packs less of a punch than “Combinations.” More piano- and string-driven than the previous record, some of the songs feel a bit restrained and even stunted at times. Exceptions are the aforementioned “Ambulance,” the dark, structurally evolved standout “Better Love” and the propulsive title track.
The DuPree sisters aren’t reinventing the wheel when it comes to lovesickness — the lyrics allude to common themes like infidelity and miscommunication — but, though it’s not Eisley’s strongest effort to date, the confessional honesty on “The Valley” expose a level of vulnerability previously unseen in the band’s songwriting.