Review Summary: This is happiness.
Ahhhhh, Rise Records. The infamous label known for releasing the same, pre-packaged music over and over. Kicking out disappointing releases year after year. Every newly signed band to this label sounds almost the same, with very few exceptions. Hands Like Houses is one of the exceptions.
The hype seems to be overwhelming for this album and rightfully so. Their debut record “Ground Dweller” generally was met with great praise. Featuring soaring clean vocals and beautiful, yet technical instrumentation to back it up, “Ground Dweller” was a breath of fresh air in this dying “-core” scene. So one question remains, should you believe the hype?
Yes, you should believe, most of it, anyway. Hands Like Houses change their sound slightly in “Unimagine.” It seems as though they have taken the edge off of their music. Leaving behind the heavier parts in their last album and trading them for softer and catchier sections. Also trading the interesting song structures they had for more generic “Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus etc.” type structures. Which could be a positive thing for many listeners, but for many more it's disappointing.
This album, however, doesn't disappoint. You can't help but smile as vocalist Trenton Woodley sings “This is happiness.” That is the emotion that you will feel when listening to this album. Happiness. And according to the teaser released for this album, that is what they were going for. The standout thing about this album? The vocals. Trenton Woodley has an astounding range and uses his soulful type vocals quite tastefully throughout the album.The breathtaking guitar leads are quite audible throughout the record. Although they seem more simple than before, they're more memorable. The electronics/keyboards are less prominent. Blending into the mixes quite well, standing out when needed. The drums also seem to have mellowed out, very rarely grabbing your attention, the drummer Matt Parkitney and bassist Joel Tyrrell just lay down a canvas for guitarists Alexander Pearson and Matt Cooper to paint on. They, in turn, allow Trenton to put the finishing touches on the beautiful images that they create.
The songs themselves also seem to be more mellow. Songs such as “A Tale of Outer Suburbia” and “Oceandust” present a slow tempo, ballad type song that we haven't heard from this band before. But don't worry, songs such as “No Parallels” and “Wisteria” bring back the more familiar, up tempo songs that we're used to hearing from this band. And the best part? I can't recall hearing a single breakdown on this album.
Overall, this record is a departure from “Ground Dweller.” That is not a good thing, nor a bad thing. It just adds a new side to the band that we haven't heard much in the past. Some will like it, some won't. This album will appeal to a larger audience and keep fans of past works. “Hands Like Houses” has succeeded in making a solid follow up to their debut record.