A Lot Like Birds


Written by: TL on 30/05/2017 21:38:43

On the two albums with which A Lot Like Birds seriously made their mark - 2011's "Conversation Piece" and 2013's "No Place" - the band established themselves as the kind of group that people would probably make expanding brain memes about if those albums had come out these days. With a jagged, rebellious, progressive and conceptual take on post-hardcore, the band cemented a position as purveyors of music of top shelf complexity. Then they took a break and guitarist Michael Franzino worked on his solo project - dubbed alone. - and upon his return, the band decided to start on a new album with a less screamy direction, ironically prompting the exit of their main clean singer Kurt Travis and causing some concern among fans about how things would eventually turn out.

The result has now arrived in the form of the twelve track album "DIVISI", which - somewhat unsurprisingly - sounds like A Lot Like Birds, dragged halfway over in the direction of alone. and with almost no screaming whatsoever. To the uninitiated what that means is a mix of elements that are very emotive and cinematic, and others that are very technical and proggy - with a dash of those Latin hints here and there that most Mars Volta-inspired bands can't seem to avoid.

As the story often goes with good albums, however, it's less about the separate ingredients and more about how well they come together. And things come together well on "DIVISI". With mainly soft and confessional vocals and moonlit atmospheres, the record has a dark, emotional vibe that brings to mind things like the later Foxing or Pianos Become The Teeth records, or even Copeland or Lydia's classic "Illuminate", all with that added potential for for technical twists or bursts of dramatic energy above what most of those would leap up to. You'd think that the main attraction would be former screamer Cory Lockwood's transition to clean singer, yet his singing style is rather similar to Travis', meaning that the most notable difference is that he only screams in a faded background role on one track. And while you could argue that taking the screaming so decisively out is maybe going a bit further than was necessary, you forget about this because what really sparkles are the compositions and the guitar and bass work.

The obvious must-hear track on the album is the single "Trace The Lines", which gives a perfectly woven tour of what the record as a whole has to offer. Choral vocalising and thoughtful guitar lines open the track before cinematic violins set a post-rock-ish atmosphere, building up to a classic tremolo-backed climax, only for things to break down and descent to a mesmerizing, string-driven bridge, before a second surge leads to a soaring finish the kind of which you imagine yourself hearing live, spreading your arms and spinning like nobody's watching. "Atoms In Evening" then circles softly around a bass line that sounds borrowed from a Death Cab For Cutie song, before "The Smoother The Stone" provides a meandering, yet foreboding spoken word intro to the incredible "Infinite Chances", where you might as well forget about the vocals and just listen to the creativity in the bass, guitar and piano lines, racing untamed yet elegantly around each other particularly in the verses. Later tracks on the record phase out the starry-eyed feeling a little bit for something that sounds closer to something you're used to from Mars Volta and their many imitators, and while the bass in particular in "Further Below" is enough to merit the track a listen, it's "Good Soil, Bad Seeds" that runs away as the star of the album's last third, with the bittersweet and instantly memorable call and response patterns in the bridge section.

When all is said and done, the title track eventually wraps up the album by circling back to the same mantra and melody that opened the album twelve tracks earlier on "Always Burning, Always Dark". It provides a classical and fitting conclusion, as well as a simple symptom of the amount of carefulness that's gone into making the record, which by the way segues perfectly from track to track without ever stopping. Even if you disagree with the full departure from screaming (it's hard not to do somewhat, if you revisit "Conversation Piece" and get reminded how great it is) it's clear that "DIVISI" is just a work of composition on a level you don't hear on rock albums. It's like a full score of theme music has somehow escaped from a theatre performance and settled into songs that both work individually and as parts of a whole: A sure sign that the people in A Lot Like Birds have sufficient talent to deserve being followed through at least a couple of sharp turns in their development.

Download: Trace The Lines; Infinite Chances; Good Soil, Bad Seeds
For The Fans Of: Circa Survive, Mars Volta, Mew, Hail The Sun, Foxing
Listen: facebook.com/ALotLikeBirds

Release date 05.05.2017
Equal Vision Records

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