Review Summary: I don't think the word darling is on the whole record!
"a Departure" is the perfect title for the opening track on La Dispute's sophomore effort, Wildlife
. The first thing I noticed was the wind chimes sounding off in the distance of the mix, hauntingly reminiscent of the staple track "New Storms for Old Lovers" from their debut record, Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair
. The song concludes with audio clips of what sounds like a set of wind-chimes being dismantled, perhaps metaphorical for the step La Dispute has taken in a new direction. a Departure is exactly that, a departure from Somewhere...
, and a right foot forward on a new path for the band.
One of the most profound differences on Wildlife
is that the gap between vocalist Jordan Dreyer and the rest of the band has been drastically reduced. On Somewhere...
, it seemed that either the music or the vocals were taking the spotlight. The moments in which the band as a whole shined cohesively were rare. And while the music AND the lyrics were both more than on par, they coexisted awkwardly. While these awkward moments certainly exist on Wildlife
, they occur sparingly. More often than not, the vocals and the music are complimenting each other.
Guitarists Chad Sterenburg and Kevin Whittemore focus more on emotional, almost unnerving, chord progressions than on oddly-timed licks, and while maybe sacrificing a certain level of technicality on the record, this adds to the level of cohesiveness and consistency that Wildlife
Lyrically, Dreyer proves that his vocabulary doesn't only consist of the words darling, lover, and bones. In fact, a lot of the lyrics on this record are more in the realm of story telling than they are melodramatic and metaphor riddled. Tracks like King Park, I See Everything, and Edward Benz, 27 Times, all read like short stories. Tracks like Safer in the Forest/Love Song for Poor Michigan, and A Broken Jar are more of the usual introspective paintings that Dreyer painted on Somewhere...
, but they feel more genuine. And where Dreyer may seem less harsh or loud vocally, he makes up for in the dynamics in his voice. Hints of melodic vocals can be heard throughout Wildlife
, especially in the softer moments of "The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit", although they are rare to occur.
The closing track of Wildlife
serves as a summary of the step La Dispute has taken in this new direction, highlighting the new and capitalizing on the old. It pronounces band's new found ability to shine as a whole, never sacrificing musicality for vocals or vice versa. The track closes out as Dreyer's vocals sound increasingly distant in the mix, until barely audible, against a musical backdrop that decreases in intensity as if the members are physically backing off further and further from their microphones, dropping their instruments, and continuing on their journey in musical progression, further from the comfort zone that was Somewhere...
, and deeper into the unknown, deeper into their very own Wildlife.