Review Summary: La Dispute finally display what we knew they had all along - limitless potential.
I have a weird relationship with La Dispute's wordy debut album Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair. On the surface, they do everything right. A verbose vocalist who delivers his well-thought out poetry with passion? Check. Interesting music? Check. Good songwriting? Check. However, after the sixth or seventh track, I lose all interest in the album. If you were to look at my Itunes library, you would see that the play-count for each song gets progressively lower as the album goes on. So while La Dispute have all the elements that I love, there is just something
And now I'm thinking that maybe - just maybe
- that something was heartbreak.
Not in the music, no. There's plenty of that there. It was missing in me.
Because goddamn, a lot of the lyrics on Somewhere... are just so ridiculous ("She is mine! You stole her - tricked her somehow - but we'll survive!") that you simply can't take them seriously until you get your heart stomped on by a lady. All of a sudden, the cries of "TONIGHT WE ROOIIDEE" become a lot less funny. Still, the album does lose steam after the first half, and I've been forced to the conclusion that La Dispute simply aren't good enough yet for me to pay attention to them for more than a half hour. That's why Here, Hear III, the latest in a series of EPs, hits such a sweet spot. At thirteen minutes, the EP makes La Dispute a lot easier to swallow.
Unlike their aggressive full-length album, Here, Hear III is much more subdued, focusing more on Jordan Dreyer's words than the music. Interestingly, when the music serves only to complement his lyrics, the musicians truly shine. On Somewhere... it seemed like Dreyer and the band were constantly battling to gain control of the album, and while the musicians arguably should have won, Dreyer came out on top simply by being more ridiculous. Here, Hear III is a much better representation of what La Dispute are capable of doing, and if their next record mixes the aggression of their first album with this EP's soft-spoken style, La Dispute will be a force to be reckoned with. For now, listen to the church-like keyboard of "nine" as it mixes with the sound of the wind blowing, creating perhaps the best backdrop for a lyricist like Dreyer in a long time. Anyone can clash music and voice like La Dispute did on Somewhere..., but it takes true skill to create a piece of music that unites every single component in perfect harmony.
The acoustic guitar pattern in "ten" is the Midwest personified, rolling over itself like a green pasture while the electric guitar provides occasional glances at the endless blue sky. And just like the unhappiness and discontent broiling right underneath the surface of every Midwestern home, the song drops off a cliff as Dreyer steps back from the mic and screams, only to return with a repeated line of "It doesn't bother me at all," as all people in denial of their inward darkness will proclaim. "eleven" is the closest La Dispute gets to Somewhere..., a distorted guitar shooting out groovy licks while Dreyer rides high on top of everything, singing of fear and uncertainty.
"twelve" is the highlight. It is La Dispute as they should be - music and voice working together to create a frankly gorgeous track. As Dreyer sings, "Walked in to find you sitting in your kitchen, softly singing, 'Someone carry me away'," the guitar does just that, creating a gentle lake for Dreyer's voice to float on. And while it may have been nice to have the song explode at some point into aggression, "twelve" instead goes the way of all things in life - beautiful, humbling, and all too fleeting.