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Most music lovers have a band or artist they hold dear for reasons that aren't easy to explain. If you're lucky, you're able to share this connection with a group of friends, but often others will be nonplussed when given a recommendation. They may not be the most artistically impressive or the most popular, but you will still champion them despite the naysayers. You form a very personal relationship with them, finding reflections of yourself in their music. For me, that band is Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, and this is the story of my relationship with them.
It started innocuously enough, a two or three sentence in the "Radar" section of NME in 2006, but one short MySpace search and a quick spin of "Oregon Girl" later and I was hooked on the Springfield, Missouri band with the funny name. It was twee-pop genius - barely two and a half minutes long, the ode to a lover faraway in Oregon with its simple production and earnest sensibilities appealed to notions of romance that my 16-year-old self still held sacred.
Most importantly, the music they made sounded achievable. Their debut album Broom's lo-fi sound, recorded in guitarist Will Knauer's attic, made these gorgeous power pop melodies feel like something my friends and I could have recorded, if only we had talent. Album opener "Pangea" is a perfect example, with its simple riff and charmingly goofy chorus ("Pangea, we used to be together, why'd we have to drift apart?), the band's pop sensibilities shine through with harmonies and plenty of oohs and bops to carry the melody. It's a great pop song, dressed in folksy, indie clothing - a perfect marriage at an age where I was still pretending to hold pop music with disdain.
At just 29 minutes long, listening to Broom soon became a holistic experience, and for about a year, barely a day went by without experiencing to it in its entirety. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin were the first band that I fully immersed myself with in a Web 2.0 fashion, trawling message boards and MySpace pages for any mp3 of a demo I could find. I even sent my first and only e-mail to a band in this period. Inquiring about UK tour dates, I was told by Philip Dickey to expect something when the new album appeared. The excitement of receiving a personal reply to an email from a band only deepened the extent to which Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin felt like my band. It was only later that I fully comprehended that a new album was on its way.
Timed impeccably, Pershing, the second album, was released in April of 2008, just months before I left school. Dropping the folk elements of Broom and with slightly more muscular guitars, Pershing was the perfect soundtrack for that summer of freedom, its jams bordering on surfpop with tracks called "Beach Song" and "Oceanographer" from a band from landlocked Missouri. It was ideal for driving with the windows down in the glorious summer sun, slotting in effortlessly beside Vampire Weekend and MGMT's debuts, and at 35 minutes long was the perfect length for the drive to and from my then-girlfriend's house.
The band's next album, Let It Sway, dropped in the autumn of 2010 and brought a different sound. Produced by Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie, the band's third effort feels more textured and harbours a more melancholy and cynical vibe. That description would also be apt for my own progression from 18 to 20 years old, as I was on Let It Sway's release. Compared to cuts from Broom, album opener "Back In The Saddle", with its synths and pseudo-choral ending, is practically an epic.
Nothing summed up this edge as well as "Critical Drain", a biting riposte to the band's middling reviews since their debut and inanity of the obsession with the band's name: "Nothin' ever changes; is that really your name?/What's it mean, what's the context, could you explain?/I don't mean to be an asshole, I don't mean to complain/But is that all we've given ya?" The frustration chimed perfectly with my early-20s existential crisis.
So what of their latest album? Fly By Wire landed in September 2013 and, after the departure of John Robert Cardwell, certainly feels different. Having always shouldered at least half of the songwriting, Cardwell's absence is definitely felt. The album, which returns to a more lo-fi sound, is still enjoyable, but in this context it speaks to me of continuing on having taken your lumps, persevering through a little adversity - a narrative that echoes my experiences in the years prior to its release; once again the band and I feel intertwined.
I've grown up with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin's music there at every turn along the way, from an optimistic, naïve 16 year old to the slightly-more-cynical 23 year old trying to find a footing in the wider world. For that, they will always be my favourite band. I've got far too much invested at this point for it to be any different.