Review Summary: Too much insanity, nothing really enjoyable was spawned.
A Lot Like Birds is not by any means a "poor" band. Quite the contrary, actually. The vocals both unclean and clean are brilliantly executed, and the musicianship is exceptional. So, now the question emerges why I labeled "Conversation Piece" as such. Because of a lack of new ground to cover in the long running genre "post hardcore", bands will do just about anything to get noticed and to sound original. Whether it be adding synthesizers, adding metal vocalists, or just sounding flat-out bizarre. Or in this band's case by adding complex time signatures, and adding agonizingly forced progressive rock elements. That being said, this album tries far too hard.
In my first listening of this record I got about halfway through the cd when I realized that I was incredibly bored and overwhelmed. The sound is very busy, between two vocalists, screeching progressive guitar riffs, nonsensical lyrics, and complex drumming I hardly had time to breathe. And through the constant chaos and INCREDIBLY overly ambitious song writing,(lyrically and conceptually) there is hardly any time for a good melody to take form or even a decent head-bangers breakdown. Kurt Travis and his beautiful voice don't get many chances to shine in this album because of the spastic mess being created at every turn. Now, to Cory Lockwood. His screams are maniacal and incredibly well done, but when does the time get made for a proper breakdown away from the never ending cacophony of the unhinged instrumentals? The answer is: very seldom.
The only songs in fact that were actually catchy and really popped out to me were "Orange Time Machines Care", "Think Dirty Out Loud", and hands down the coolest song on the album, "Tantrum". Orange Time Machines has a beautiful bridge that will have you singing along, and a perfect soundscape to accompany Kurt's voice. Dirty Out Loud has the most intensity and energy of "Conversation Piece", which gives Cory a chance to shine, and though the lyrics are a tad bit silly the job is certainly well established. Lastly, Tantrum pops out instantaneously with its gnarly guitar riff, with the perfect melody for Kurt to follow, and lowe and behold... A skull shattering breakdown emerges from out of nowhere and blows your hair back. The song had an element much different than the rest of this album, and the element I am referring to is simply good song writing. It keeps your attention with it's ominous and memorable riff,(literally the only memorable riff on the album) and it gives you something to groove to as it builds up to it's epic climax.
All in all the album fell short to me because it was too busy and there weren't enough distinct melodies, harmonies, or breakdowns, and too many areas were touched upon without them ever being well grounded. And while trying so damn hard to make something memorable, they actually did exactly the opposite by making something nearly impossible to listen to. But I have a glimmer of hope, for they are a great band... It is just a matter now for these prolific musicians to make something pleasant to the ears. Perhaps something a little less of a cosmic assault and more like a comforting massage.