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Album Review: Pianos Become the Teeth – Keep You

Keep You

Artist: Pianos Become the Teeth
Album: Keep You
Tracks: 10
Release Date: 28th October 2014
Label: Epitaph Records

Pianos Become the Teeth to many will sound like the sort of anomaly that would usually occur in the midst of four days of sleep deprivation, after squinting your eyes for far too long. However, those of us in the ‘know’, recognise Pianos Become the Teeth as a band with strong roots in a melodic approach to music, no matter how they choose to deliver it. Until now, Pianos Become the Teeth’s material has been largely constructed around emotional screaming vocals and intense musicianship, ear-melting feedback, drum beats that when played loud enough turn your ribs into xylophones, and guitar chords that make you double-take. Their earlier records Old Pride in 2010, and The Lack Long After in 2011 showcase these elements that fans will associate with the band. 

However, since moving from Top Shelf Records to Epitaph Records they have undergone a transformation similar to that of We Are the Ocean, ditching many of the throat destroying screams and speaker vibrating power chords to a far more gentle approach, playing with contemplative clean vocals and melancholic melodies on the guitar, all of which focus on the growing maturity of the band. For many long time fans of Pianos Become the Teeth the change may be met with some alienation, being worlds apart from their usual turnout, however, for many, the maturation will be welcomed with open arms as it showcases a fresh side to the band, their abilities and song-writing direction.

Released on the 28th October through Epitaph Records, the band’s latest effort Keep You is host to a myriad of sensitivity and sentiment. The song above, Repine, was the first song I heard from the new album, and could be considered as the keystone of the record. It opens with dark ambience, open-ended chords free to resonate eerily along-side the masterfully executed hammer-on and hammer-off in the lick. As the vocals creep in we find ourselves heading to the nearest online dictionary to learn that ‘repine’ means to express feelings of discontent, before we focus our attention back to the line “How’s it stand? What are we, left in sand? Flush my cheeks, wear me out.” with new-found appreciation for the feeling behind it. The drums slide in, fading into the foreground, keeping pace with the chords that first introduced Repine, and as they grow louder and louder their presence on the track becomes more intimidating. They become quieter first as a feint, designed to mislead during the pre-chorus which features ghostly ambience and growing strength in delivery of the vocals, and then rise fiercely during the chorus of and outro of “Your wick won’t burn away.” Overall, the song is one designed to perhaps, be a reflective repine, unmistakably mournful and despite the sorrow, faces up to be one of the strongest songs on the new album.

Pianos Become the TeethNow, to move away from the single, when you first hit the play button on Keep You, the first song you come across is Water Ripple Shine, which in my opinion, is as fine a name for an opening track as any other. The inner poet in me adores the idea of an album commencing with ripples, merging with one another across the ten tracks and forty-four minutes, with the hope that each ripple that follows is larger and greater through the connection that created it.

The guitar licks that break the silence are created in the same fashion, appearing randomised yet tightly formed in time, connected and flowing into another so that we can hear more than one lick playing at the same time creating the effect of rain in a puddle on the street of Baltimore, Maryland, the place of origin for Pianos Become the Teeth. On the backbone of these licks, the song begins to take form as Kyle Durfey’s ethereal voice swims, accentuating the rhymes in his lines. Towards the middle eight of the track, David Haik’s drums come through more prominently, guiding the crescendo towards its pinnacle, but it is not as hard and aggressive as some of their previous work, it’s a soft and gentle replica. If they had only played the same music but a few decibels higher and with more vigour, it could very easily be a song for the pit and the dimly lit rock venues that we all know and frequent. Instead, they’ve masterfully transformed it into a more anthemic tale of nostalgia and reflection.

Proving correct, the theory of the ripple effect on Keep You, the fourth track on the album Old Jaw, evidently part of the same current of songs that stems from Ripple Water Shine, but in the process of forming has personality all of its own. The tune of the song  is truly the defining factor. Durfey has mastered the art of creating an evocative melody, that through displaying the emotion behind it, passes it on to the listener. The section starting at the chorus to the ending is particularly striking. Seldom does it occur that the music moves in tandem with the vocals so efficiently. Old Jaw also features one of the heavier moments on the album, reaching a point of desperation after the three-minute mark, and will be a pleasant section for those that have been fans of the ban since their early days. 

One negative about the album is the repetition. Regardless of the fact that it can be argued that the band’s matured sound will be a benefit to them in many ways, allowing them to move forward in the way that they construct songs. However, at times they dwell in their new-found sound just long enough for it to become tedious in places. Songs such as Enamor Me, and The Queen are so similar to other songs that it can be hard to distinguish the tracks until you fully get to know the album. Fans who listen to the album religiously will find the songs easier to distinguish between, but if you’re someone that’s only just discovering the album or the band, it won’t be one of the most endearing qualities. Overall, the album has been an overwhelming success. They’ve moved forward and aged wonderfully, and have pulled off such a drastic move in terms of genre.

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