A Lot Like Birds
No Place


4.4
superb

Review

by Jacob Royal STAFF
November 3rd, 2013 | 1363 replies


Release Date: 10/29/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Sentimentality.

Between the bongos and synthesized sine waves, amidst the pummeling percussion and atmospheric torrent that rains down on No Place, it becomes clear-- this is the most composed A Lot Like Birds has ever been. On first impression, it appears the post-hardcore troupe is exhausting each and every bell and whistle to make its third album appear as dynamic as it can. It's also true that No Place will drastically change the group's fanbase because of the record's sheer ambition. While Plan B was adventurous to a T, it lacked the instrumental congruity required to really send its message home. And A Lot Like Birds got things done on Conversation Piece, but the urgency of the band’s music had been all but snuffed out. In this sense, No Place is a cherry-picking of the most vibrant traits of one talented band's discography.

Opposite to A Lot Like Birds’ most recent direction, No Place doesn’t showcase the group’s instrumental talent-- it’s all about the album’s theme this time around. First off, yes, there’s a theme here-- screamer Cory Lockwood sums it up best in single “Kuroi Ledge”, where he shouts “Is there some place I belong? Is there any place to call a home?” All of No Place was written exclusively to set forth these ideas of home, and about how in just a fragment of a second, the safest house can transform into a wrecking ground. Each song is meant to represent a different room in a house, something the bathroom-led video for “Next to Ungodliness” wears on its sleeve. It’s music built around a premise, art devised for a message that's sometimes alarming. The music here is even more grim, though-- it’s dissonant, chaotic and downright concerning. For starters, guitarist Michael Franzino chooses the most curious chord changes through the record. The album’s melodies are about indecipherable at times as a result, which contributes to this feeling of being lost in a place that feels so familiar. We know A Lot Like Birds by now, and this music is certainly theirs, but it’s so unlike them that it’s jarring. Thankfully, when No Place feels too constricting, the album cuts back and takes a breather. If it weren’t for its interludes, it’d be a hell of a lot easier to lose one’s place in the panoptic journey at hand.

Instead of looking to playful modern post-hardcore for its influences like Conversation Piece did, this album goes a bit further back. The most obvious comparison to make, and the one that (surprisingly!) hasn’t been made yet, is that No Place sounds a hell of a lot like the early Mars Volta. These songs are long, riddled with absurd time signatures, and carry Latin influence on their collective sleeve, especially in the diverse rhythm section at hand. The core of “No Nature” practically screams this fact, via the spell-binding grooves crafted by drummer Joe Arrington and bassist Michael Littlefield. Singer Kurt Travis also takes cues from Cedric Bixler-Zavala throughout the record, wailing in the chaos and crooning in the subdued moments. Never is it more evident than in No Place’s centerpiece, “Connector”-- listen to the song at 3:41, and tell me that isn’t an EXACT vocal melody The Mars Volta frontman has utilized at some point in his career. Now, every band has to look to others for its stylistic changes-- in this way, it doesn’t bother me that The Mars Volta influence is so clear on the record. More bands could use The Mars Volta's spirit, and besides, there’s an adage somewhere that suggests the most effective way to become the best is to ape those who’ve earned that title already.

There’s more to No Place’s new stylings than the recently-defunct, most celebrated progressive rock group, though. Other, more recent bands also seem to have shaped this record-- I hear Jordan Dreyer’s contributions to La Dispute in Cory Lockwood’s newfound affinity for spoken-word, and surprisingly enough, atmospheric tracks like “Hand Over Mouth, Over and Over” recall the more personable days of post-rock group Maybeshewill. This wide scope of imprints on No Place makes the record function more as an aggregator of different musical genres, but that all have one thing in common-- sentimentality. This record is emotional beyond repair, whether building up walls through shape-shifters of tunes like “Recluse”, or retracting them gracefully like the warm and marvelous “Hand Over Mouth, Over and Over”. And that’s the pivotal thing about No Place, that it’s necessary for A Lot Like Birds to release this because it’s a message they’ve been wanting to share for the longest time. And yes, critics will have the easiest time slamming the record because its fears are on its sleeve, and those fears sometimes come off as a little callow. But I’ll take that any day over music that exists to exist, to tunes that are as needless to their creator as they are to the listener. No Place is bleak, incongruent, and more importantly, human.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Omaha
Staff Reviewer
November 2nd 2013


10383 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Entire album is streaming on the following Youtube playlist:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pn5mtXCozmQ&list=PL-XbTEkQt3TYszsjIjjFuWmulEDv0QvJk

Digging: Thou - Heathen

LocustGrove
November 2nd 2013


540 Comments


I'm digging this so far. Still need to listen to it a few more times to completely take it all in.

joshieboy12345
November 3rd 2013


5371 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Correct rating, great review.

D41V30N
November 3rd 2013


949 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Serious AOTY contender.

silentstar
November 3rd 2013


2283 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

when will your rating drop down by .8?

JokineAugustus
November 3rd 2013


6608 Comments


Will check

Digging: Alpinist - Minus.Mensch

Tyrannic
November 3rd 2013


3262 Comments


Edit: THE MARS VOLTA?

checking.

PoisonCupcakes
November 3rd 2013


54 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Perfect!

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
November 3rd 2013


50960 Comments


why do you review every 2.5-3 album as a 4.1-4.4

Digging: Friendzone - Collection 1

Rowan5215
November 3rd 2013


28916 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

brilliant review

Digging: Sharon Van Etten - Are We There

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
November 3rd 2013


10383 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Thanks buds.

"when will your rating drop down by .8?"

What?

Rowan5215
November 3rd 2013


28916 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I think he's joking because that's what you did with Conversation Piece after you reviewed it.

XingKing
November 3rd 2013


11087 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Goddamn, this was a great review

Rowan5215
November 3rd 2013


28916 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Omaha I want to read this review on my radio show when I review this album, hope you don't mind

Calc
November 3rd 2013


12374 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

the angst is strong with this one...

cliiint
November 3rd 2013


673 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

after listening to this twice, once passively and just now lights off mentally engaged, im
completely disappointed. the build ups are boring leading to very predictable climaxes. the spoken
word stuff poorly delivered and his cleans/screams sound emotionless.

kurts singing is fucking solid though and some of the guitar work blew my mind painting very vivid
fractal cevs. yeah, i can see the fucking leads and they are incredible. unless they aren't, which
unfortunately is as often as they are. but i do hear a lot of people saying it's a grower, and if
scurrilous taught me anything it's that some albums take work and stuff i initially hate can end up
being 5 material. so heres hoping. i guess its just that conversation piece was so damn catchy and
easy.

oh, and the way connector eases into gear so smooth ahhhh

ProjectFreak
November 3rd 2013


1443 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Connector is breathtaking. Album is fantastic. Review is spot-on.

Rowan5215
November 3rd 2013


28916 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"the spoken word stuff poorly delivered and his cleans/screams sound emotionless"
nope not even close

sailSAway
November 3rd 2013


901 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

not even close baby. my ass is aoty.

Rowan5215
November 3rd 2013


28916 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"my ass is aoty."
your ass is prob a 3 sorry man



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