As a listener, there are several avenues that could have lead you to A Lot Like Birds‘s debut full-length, Conversation Piece. Most of you likely ventured from Dance Gavin Dance-land, having heard that former vocalist Kurt Travis had teamed with this talented team of musicians. Aficionados are back because they loved the band’s original experimental EP, Plan B (which is still available for FREE). No matter your route, welcome to post-hardcore’s strongest release of the year, binding together emerging sub-genres into an undeniably excellent record.
No stone or sound goes unturned on Conversation Piece. The appeal of the album ranges from “The Wave” to Warped Tour, Mathcore to Metal, and Prog to…prog. Repeated listens should conjure thoughts of everyone from Touche Amore and La Dispute to Explosions In The Sky and Closure In Moscow, yet packaging the sounds in a way that’s new and refreshing. Few albums can stretch genre-boundaries without alienating audiences, yet A Lot Like Birds breezes through the task.
All you Kurt apostles will be pleased, as the man is at his best here. Every line he croons on Conversation Piece displays the anxious enthusiasm from his DGD debut with the free-flowing maturity of Happiness, all while hitting the strongest notes of his career. Despite great chorus contributions on alternating vocal tracks like “Orange Time Machines Care” and “Sesame Street Is No Place For Me,” his most mesmerizing moments are when the band yanks the reigns and gets sexy, like in “The Blowtorch is Applied to the Sugar” and the gorgeous “A Satire of a Satire of a Satire is Tiring.”
You’ll come for Travis, but you’ll leave with Cory Lockwood. In a scene where most screamers utter indecipherable angry bullshit, Lockwood displays several unique vocal approaches that all entertain. Sometimes he’ll tear you to shreds (see: “Think Dirty Out Loud“), while other times he’s taking a more Jordan Dreyer approach to things, opting for spoken word on the latter half of “Properties of Friction.” No matter what he’s sending through the mic, though, Lockwood’s performance (and afro) are sure to win over legions of fans.
Enough about the vocals though; the musicianship and composition behind A Lot Like Birds are the foundation of the band’s greatness. As I said before, the guitar playing of Michael Franzino and Ben Wiacek is more eclectic, complex and creative than the rest of the scene combined; that opening lead to “Vanity’s Fair” following the trumpets (yeah, you read right. Trumpets.) begs you to raise your fret fingers and play along. Joe Arrington’s beastly beats deserve recognition of their own, hitting with the ferocity of Underoath‘s Daniel Davison and the technicality of Saosin‘s Alex Rodriguez. Make sure to check the mastered version of leaked demo “Tantrum (Far From The Tree, The Apple Grew Rotten)” to witness the mastery of the ALLB’s rhythm section.
Like a finely-tuned machine, Conversation Piece is a record greater than the sum of its parts, even with the six talented members behind it. It’s absurd to think that this line-up has worked together less than a year, creating an album experienced bands dream of making. With their debut full-length, A Lot Like Birds have become one of post-hardcore’s most important new bands and one of the few capable of saving the scene.