Sherri DuPree-Bemis wastes no time dispelling any lingering fears Eisley fans may have had leading up to the band’s new release, I’m Only Dreaming. The album’s opening moments are quintessential Eisley, right down to Sherri’s haunting delivery of, “Whisper my name, I will find you, I will fly”. “Always Wrong” is a track that harkens to the days of Room Noises or Combinations with effortless ease and is a clear, if ironic, sign that all is right in Tyler, Texas.
When it was revealed late last year that Stacy King and Chauntelle D’Agostino would no longer carry on alongside their sister in Eisley, it was easy to raise questions about the band’s future. A large part of what made Eisley such a charming outlier in the indie scene was the distinct delivery and style that each DuPree sister brought to the table.
Thus, it speaks volumes to DuPree-Bemis’ talent and vision that I’m Only Dreaming not only captures the best parts of Eisley throughout the record, but also may very well be the band’s best release.
Each Eisley record seems to carry a particular theme and I’m Only Dreaming is no different. As the title suggests, the album unfolds in dream-like fashion, musing on the complexity of love, the dread of anxiety and insomnia, and the courage to overcome self-doubt. Like so much of the band’s discography, this new album carries a wistful ambiance that courses throughout.
Tracks like “Louder Than a Lion” embody the spirit of Eisley while also serving as a sonic step forward. The song’s electronic underbelly carries raw guitars and the sounds of a weary Sherri acting as a nighttime guardian of her daughters: “Cause I’m louder than a lion / My hands wipe out the ghosts / I’m brighter than a diamond / My light will shine the most”.
I’m Only Dreaming is truly an exercise in diversity, constantly rearranging the building blocks of the signature Eisley sound to create something new. “Snowfall” starts as an eerily delicate and familiar track before the full band breaks through at the two minute mark, highlighted by Sherri’s explosive delivery of, “As we watch the snow fall down, down / I am so far away from you now”.
Alongside these darker offerings, tracks like the light and airy “Sparking” or the alt-country tinged “When You Fall” stand in stark sonic contrast without feeling out of place. Even the poppy, bounding feel of “A Song for the Birds” with husband Max Bemis fits the narrative, with Sherri singing a chorus of, “My love for you, don’t ever doubt / You fill my heart, so sing it out / While we keep moving forwards / This is a song for the birds”.
It’s fair to argue that such an eclectic mix of sounds wouldn’t tie together quite as well without the presence of producer Will Yip, who is quickly becoming one of music’s most exciting minds. You can literally feel his graceful hand in the mix on early singles like “You Are Mine”, which knits together the instruments with surgical precision. Repeated listens with noise-cancelling headphones reveal even greater detail, and prove this to be Eisley’s best-produced album by a comfortable margin.
Sherri and cousin Garron DuPree handle the bulk of the writing duties on Dreaming and, together with Yip, have crafted a superb next chapter for Eisley. On “Defeatist”, Sherri’s repeated closing refrain captures the heart of the record, and perhaps alludes to the strength it took to push past what must have been a painful setback: “As the dust falls down, I usually give up so easily / I let my head hang down before I even see / A truth that’s plain as day, staring back at me / I’m a defeatist but I don’t have to be”.
The fact that we have a new Eisley record in 2017 is cause enough for celebration. That the album might be the band’s best is an absolute triumph.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.