Artist: La Dispute
Album: Rooms of the House
Release date: 18 March 2014
Label: Better Living, in partnership with Staple Records
La Dispute, the gloomy post-hardcore quintet from Grand Rapids, Michigan, are an enigma. When paying attention, you realise their music isn’t for you, it’s for them. That may sound pretentious, but there’s a real feeling of defeat and catharsis to their previous albums (particularly 2011’s Wildlife), which resonates well with their audience by creating relatable lyrics (which are the delivered with heart-broken agony, somewhere between spoken word and screeching sob, by vocalist Jordan Dreyer). Their use of poignant melodies, which rise to a heavy, hardcore crescendos before plummeting back to trail off in gloomy, eerie finales is fantastic. They’re no strangers to tackling tough topics, with 2008’s Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair being a highly emotional re-telling of an Asian folk-story and 2011’s Wildlife telling tales ranging from grief, mental illness, the death of a child, the impact of gang warfare on a community, family, and suicide, sometimes all in one song.
La Dispute’s Rooms of the House (the first release on the band’s own label, Better Living, following their split from No Sleep Records) follows a more relatable topic – the heartache experienced following a break-up. If this sounds more like bleeding-heart emo than the interesting hardcore-fusion La Dispute are known for, you might just be underestimating the band. Thematically, Rooms of the House is interesting in that it explores the emotions felt by both members of a split upon seeing objects relating to their previous relationship. It has been said that La Dispute have elevated their music to a kind of art-form, and Rooms of the House is a living, breathing example of this.
Musically, many songs of Rooms of the House take a similar tone to those of previous album, Wildlife. The opening track, HUDSONVILLE MI 1956, sets the tone for the rest of the album, sticking to the trademark La Dispute sound, varying from subtle, mellow haunting riffs to the agonised climax Dreyer is known for, dropping to the softly spoken and horrific lyrical story featuring a car accident of a pregnant mother. It’s normal La Dispute, but the story it tells is memorable and sad, with a sudden end that catches the listener unaware.
Interestingly, La Dispute experiment a little more in Rooms of the House with a kind of blues-y, soft jazz-like sound which, although they have touched on in previous albums, takes centre stage in songs such as Woman (in mirror), forming an interesting an striking counterpoint to their more frantic, heavier songs such as Stay Happy There. There’s also some evidence of a third sound peppering the album, an almost upbeat, somewhat yearning sound which can be found on tracks SCENES FROM HIGHWAYS 1981-2009 and For Mayor In Splitsville, a song which fans will have already been familiar with due to its pre-album video release. It’s poignant and relatable to many members of their audience, and is a personal favourite. As a song, it seems almost to evolve as it tells a story, from the blasé feeling of a recent break-up to the self-loathing and misdirected anger of the later stages of loss.
Towards the end of the album, the blues-like rhythm returns with the track Woman (reading), before leading into more familiar ground towards the end of the song, returning to the angered, injured tones La Dispute are known for. The album culminates with the one-two combination of Extraordinary Dinner Party and Objects in Space. Extraordinary Dinner Party is reminiscent of Wildlife’s, King Park, a fan favourite with a hard-hitting punch and a marauding sound. Objects in Space is a surprise and a necessity. It’s a 4-minute spoken-word poem set to a haunting and saddened backing of simplistic drums and ringing strings. It’s beautiful, it’s depressing and it fits perfectly as the end of the album.
All in all, Rooms of the House is familiar ground for La Dispute fans, demonstrating their eclectic range of sounds and influences. It’s beautiful in places, terrifying in others, and most importantly, despite its familiarity, it shows evolution from a band who in themselves are hard to define.
Rooms of the House is set for release on Tuesday, 18th March through Better Living Records
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