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Album Review: La Dispute - 'Rooms Of The House'

17 March 2014 | 12:05 am | Staff Writer

Another breathtaking release from a band who can seemingly do no wrong.

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With 'Wildlife', La Dispute had seemingly reached the sky, right where the limit resides. As if everything they could have achieved as a band had been fulfilled in the body of their sophomore LP, it was hard to imagine what more the band could possibly accomplish with their third LP. The solution, it seems, was to pivot away from the aggression of their back catalogue, and approach 'Rooms of The House' from an angle that was somewhat more quietly considered. The result comes as a complete surprise if you were expecting more of the same from this band. Instead, we are graced with an album that is vividly delicate and somewhat subdued, coaxed by silkier instrumentals, studied melodies and an ambivalent sense of tranquility.

'Rooms Of The House' seems to alternate between two sorts of energies, best expressed by the relationship between a calm and a storm. Song like ‘Hudsonville MI 1965’, ‘Stay Happy There’ and ‘Scenes From The Highways,’ seem to shift seamlessly between a heightened sense of the dramatic, and a hushed sentimental texture. More than ever, the instrumentals in these songs are woody and organic, but all the while come off as more precise than La Dispute have ever been.

Both Dreyer’s vocals, which come off more accurate on this record than ever before, and the building and dropping of the instrumentals, are constantly giving off the feeling of being extensively studied. On ‘First Reactions After Falling Through The Ice’ the percussion shifts with great sensitivity along with the changes in vocal urgency, but even more so in ‘Woman (In Mirror)’ and its pair, ‘Woman (reading)’, the light as a feather riff progressions and melodies sound highly considered.

Being underpinned by the ordinary, mundane and the domestic, 'Rooms Of The House' is more relatable to the everyday listener than the haunting true-storytelling of Wildlife. ‘For Mayor in Splitsville’ tells the story of a couple breaking out of love and how simple memories of their past loves haunt them, and ‘Stay Happy There,’ paints the wreckage of past relationships in domestic idioms. There’s still elements of storytelling, as in ‘35’ and ‘The Child We Lost 1963,’ but there’s also a deliberate element of the household to the lyrics in these songs.

From ‘Woman (In Mirror)’, to ‘Objects In Space’ more dedicated listeners will start to find similarities between La Dispute’s Here, Hear series. On tracks like these, Dreyer’s vocals are vulnerable, and quietly disengaged from any anger. The vocals tend to shift around the notes, having a tendency to deliberate slightly from monotone, a style that, on ‘Objects in Space’ is supplemented by the kind of bare, minimal song writing that this record favours.

Well worth the two-year wait between records, 'Rooms of The House' is so enormously distinguished from 'Wildlife' that there is no comparing the two, and indeed, there’s no comparing this record to any other. Having blown expectations out of the water once again, with 'Rooms Of The House', La Dispute have a masterpiece on their hands.

1. Hudsonville, MI 1956
2. First Reactions After Falling Through the Ice
3. Woman (In Mirror)
4. Scenes from Highways 1981-2009
5. For Mayor in Splitsville
6. 35
7. Stay Happy There
8. The Child We Lost 1963
9. Woman (Reading)
10. Extraordinary Dinner Party
11. Objects in Space