It’s not immediately apparent upon first glance of the cover art for Eisley’s sophomore record, Combinations. It’s still not apparent as you open the record and put it into your record player of choice (computer/stereo). But, around the 45-second mark of “Many Funerals,” it hits you: Eisley is fucking with you.
On their first record, Room Noises (plus their two pervious EP’s, Laughing City and Marvelous Things) Eisley perfected their sound. The whimsical, lazy melodies of lead singers Sherri and Stacy Dupree entwined their vocals over dark pop songs that were as inspired by Coldplay, as they were C.S. Lewis. Having honed a distinct sound over several records, you could safely assume Combinations wouldn’t sound much different. “Many Funerals” starts Combinations with the Dupree’s swapping airy melodies over a building tempo—nothing out of the ordinary. But at the 45-second mark, Eisley’s not walking you along the same path they’ve created already; they’re walking you into a storm. It’s a jarring, abrupt and heavy-handed transition (you get the feeling that they’re not comfortable with this much noise) from the verse to the chorus, but it serves its purpose: to disorient you.
However, your bearings are only lost temporarily. After “Many Funerals” has you reeling, Eisley settles back into familiar territory. “Invasions” corals the power of the opening track, while “Taking Control” and “Go Away” are breezy tunes that, along with “Come Clean” and “Ten Cent Blues,” reinforce Eisley’s ability to write great pop hooks—catchy, yet not too sweet; more pineapple than ice cream; the kind of sweet that’s addicting and good for you.
Yet, as talented as Eisley is at crafting pop songs, it’s the songs where Eisley steps out of their comfort zone that are the most rewarding; and none more so than “A Sight to Behold.” The song is more Led Zeppelin than Coldplay, thanks to Drummer Weston Dupree’s pounding tribal beat and the guitar-riffs of Chauntelle and Sherri Dupree that would please Jimmy Page. Where “A Sight to Behold” excels in its primal energy, the title-track excels in its meticulous layering of melodies. “Combinations” is a baroque, dreamy song that’s the perfect soundtrack for laying in the grass and staring at the sky on a warm summer day.
After the final note of “If You’re Wondering,” you realize Eisley wasn’t fucking with you in a mean way. They were teasing you. They teased you like the kid in the cafeteria who would take something from your lunch, and at the exact moment you were about to get mad or upset, they handed it back to you, ultimately wanting not to hurt you, but just to see how you’d react. After Combinations sinks in, you wish Eisley would have taken your lunch for a little longer.