This is an amazing time of year; the leaves have almost fully crossed over to their new pigments, the breezes have gotten colder, and the days have become a little shorter as each one comes and goes. It’s the time that people tend to associate with coming to terms with their calendar year to make sure they end everything on a high note. That sense of closure that we all start to feel around October and November reverberates perfectly with the ideas behind Keep You, the third full-length record from Baltimore’s Pianos Become the Teeth.
Keep You acts as the third installment in what can easily be described as frontman Kyle Durfey’s collective stages of grief since losing his beloved father to multiple sclerosis. 2009’s Old Pride showed what Durfey was feeling at the time of his family combating the illness that was looming overhead while 2011’s The Lack Long After dealt with coming to terms that this giant of a man was actually gone. Coming full circle, it seems, is Keep You: a breath of slightly fresher air surrounded by lyrical themes of pressing on and carrying any form of legacy possible.
The first thing that should be known about Keep You‘s execution is the fact that Durfey, one of the most interesting voices of the “post-hardcore” scene, doesn’t scream throughout the first nine of ten tracks on the record (the tenth only holds a few seconds’ worth at most). This choice changes the way that Pianos’ music is heard altogether, while Durfey finds quite an impressive vocal range for someone venturing out of their comfort zone for basically the first time. This change obviously didn’t come lightly as Pianos Become the Teeth, like any band, had a lot to potentially lose in a sonic sound shift. The only difference is that it stunningly works. The subject matter continues to come through musically devastating in brand new ways and every member of the band has something pristine to offer.
Aside from Durfey’s radical changes, another to note is drummer David Haik (also of Geoff Rickly-fronted powerviolence mechagroup United Nations)’s shift from intensely-driven percussion to something just as impressive, just calmer. Bassist Zach Sewell (also of United Nations) and guitarists Michael York and Chad McDonald have found solace in delicate melodies and a different kind of driving beat that can be celebrated as the band’s new home-field sound. The band is growing as a unit and it clearly shows on tracks like “Repine” and “Enamor Me” as the colossal presence from The Lack Long After is still lingering in an evolved state.
From the surprisingly upbeat tone of opener “Ripple Water Shine” through the seven-minute powerhouse finale “Say Nothing”, Pianos Become the Teeth introduce us to the light on the other side. Standout tracks like “Old Jaw” and “Traces” show that closure can be haunting, which is allowable and even needed in most cases.
Keep You is an ode to a legacy. Whether it’s to Durfey’s father, the band’s “old sound”, or something still hidden is yours to think about. The one thing about Pianos Become the Teeth that still rings true is that they still have the power to enlighten listeners with such unrelenting force, no matter the execution. The band has power and they don’t overuse it once. That in itself is impressive, but not as impressive as what that power can make the average listener feel just by playing their music. That is a marvel.
Keep You is out now via Epitaph Records.