Review Summary: All That Will Pass.
It is not uncommon for bands to describe their latest effort as “full of passion” or simply “passionate”. Some bands exert lofty measures to attempt to capture the passion present on the stage, and put it into a recorded effort. With some bands though, it seems as though this passion is realized nearly effortlessly, as their entire discography boasts track after track oozing the proverbial passion. One such band is Listener, a three man outfit fronted by wordsmith and facial hair aficionado Dan Smith. Where Listener saw its birth in the tireless hip-hop songs of Smith, it has since evolved into the post-hardcore tinged “talk music” it has become today. Although there are merely eight tracks on Listener’s third official full length release Time Is A Machine
, these 8 tracks are undoubtedly eight of the most passionate and pensive tracks that will see the light of day this year.
Time Is A Machine is without a doubt a progression in the sound Listener has presented to their fans in past albums. The album finds itself firmly planted in nearly too many genres to count, as songs wander off in their four minutes to places Listener tracks have rarely stepped foot before. The first two tracks “Eyes to the Ground for Change” and “Good News First” are two of the most aggressive and chaotic songs in Listener’s extensive discography, the former being the lead single and first glimpse into the world Smith has created this time around. Although at times this record may begin to feel bombastic, there is not a moment found on this record that does not in some way captivate listeners. Every voice crack and strained yell begs listeners to dig deeper into the verbose verbage that is being thrown their way. Dan Smith is a man who knows how to mold and morph words to mean exactly what he is trying to convey, all while doing so in eloquent manner. While Time Is A Machine
is a record that focuses less on Smith’s brilliant poetry than past offerings, his perfectly placed words are never lost upon those who hear them. Every single track seems to encapsulate a mood; every sound heard on the song plays an integral part in relaying that disposition.
Past releases seemed more to be an extension of “The Dan Smith Project”, but with Time Is a Machine
we begin to see an album that is truly a group effort. The entire band is highlighted in every track, working together so effortlessly it is almost taken for granted the amount of effort that must have went into creating this record. “Not Today” is a song that would be an excellent place to look to find this newfound balance, as the song is atmospheric and instrument driven all while containing Smith’s trademark wordplay. The song is unmistakably sad
, a lynchpin throughout the entirety of Time Is A Machine
. The instrumentation of Time Is A Machine
, while not being a complete departure from the sound of 2010’s Wooden Heart
, is somewhat of a new direction for the band. As previously mentioned, songs no longer are entirely dependent upon the poetry of Smith, and instead find themselves perfectly poised to go in any direction that could be thought of. The instrumentation ranges from loud and obtrusive walls of sound (the outro of “Not Today”) to quietly minimalistic uses of brass instrumentation (the intro of “There Are Wrecking Balls Inside Us"), creating the perfect backdrop to the always mesmerizing Dan Smith.
Nowhere is there a track devoid of emotion, slowly building track by track until the massive finale that is “It Will All Happen the Way It Should” a track of unbridled hope and confidence, juxtaposed by the solemn sounds of a lone guitar. A song that will become an anthem to every lonely person that hears it, with an emotional build and climactic chants of There’s a plan!
, a phrase that perfectly sums up the sound of Listener; at times songs seem sloppy, but a different kind of sloppy, almost as if the songs were intentionally made to be this way. Whatever the reasoning behind the mixing and recording of Time Is A Machine, it works. All eight songs work together perfectly, and a musical style that could possibly wear thin after repeated listens only grows stronger, a testament to the myriad of layers and the abundance of determination to create an album that is equal part grandiose, dramatic and deceptively personal.