Being Empty: Being Filled

Written by: PP on 23/08/2018 22:36:10

Many remember the critically acclaimed breakthrough of spoken word fueled post-hardcore band Hotel Books a few years back, who burst out spoken-word to the wider scene's attention through intensely heartfelt, emotional lyricism that was put on even footing with poetry in its brilliance. But few are aware that Arkansas-based Listener have been exploring spoken word through indie, emo, and post-hardcore quite a bit longer than that (since 2002), essentially providing the springboard of inspiration for Cam Smith's Hotel Books to succeed.

It's true that Listener was originally a lot quieter and more focused on minimalism to allow maximum space for the spoken word element, but on their latest album "Being Empty: Being Filled", the band have shifted in the same direction of Hotel Books, introducing heavier and more vivid instrumentation to support the spoken word lyricism. Perhaps the five-year break - during which Hotel Books had their breakthrough - provided some counter-inspiration for Listener? Either way, the change is for the better. Take a listen to a track like "There's Money In The Walls". It's fragile and quiet, tranquil in the beginning with softly spoken, introspective lyricism to start off with. It then gradually grows louder and louder, with intensity levels being elevated bit-by-bit for a great effect.

Similarly, "Bloodshot/New Love" channels rage and fury through heavy distortion and rougher vocals towards the end, introducing a chunkier soundscape than Listener is accustomed to presenting in the past. It works exceptionally well without leaving behind the avant-garde, artistic roots of the band's lyricist Dan Smith, as it gives their expression more power, not to even mention adding melodies such as the smooth horn instrumentation supporting "Pent Up Genes", for instance, which echoes the brilliant Attack In Black's cult classic, "Marriage".

So why is it Listener hasn't snowballed the way Hotels Books did? I'll put it down to something as simple as enunciation. Compared to Cam Smith, Dan Smith's delivery is more muddled and makes it more difficult to follow-along, plus it's not as extreme in the sense of emotional rawness and self-reflectiveness. For that reason, "Being Empty: Being Filled" remains merely a decent album instead of one that's on everyone's lips.


Download: There's Money In The Walls, Window To The World, Add Blue, Pent Up Genes
For the fans of: Hotel Books, Saviour, September Stories, mewithoutYou
Listen: Facebook

Release date 02.02.2018
Sounds of Subterrania

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