Review Summary: suburbia, falling through
Jordan Dreyer has always written through the eyes of a child. His candid lyrics and visceral tone are so terrifyingly effective that it may force one to wonder why he even bothers to share his thoughts with anyone. He sees things with a direct gaze, and shares with words that anyone with a standard vocabulary in English would know, yet spins gold into them with such breathtaking imagery. He sees wonder and decay in everything and states it plainly. Songs like "Woman (Reading)" take after simple snapshots of life, whereas "The Child We Lost 1963" play more on thoughts of loss and existence. It all feels just too personal. It is rarely exhausting, it is rarely too weighty. Whether or not all the stories expressed through his lyrics are based in real events or a part of his own life at all, they're just too believable to not seem true.
Rooms of the House
is the perfect soundtrack to suburbia falling through. The title alone describes a setting that any middle-class boy or girl can relate to growing up. It can mean so many things. And so does the album. Each song is an exhibition of a new emotion that anyone in this setting could experience. In many ways, the album is a museum, showing several different facets of life that are connected. Whether a song deals with joy or pain, there is a running motif of destruction. Speaking comparatively to their other work, Wildlife
was an adventure of emotion that showcased Dreyer's poetic eye more than anything else, but did so perfectly. Here, Rooms of the House
is that same achievement but magnified tenfold. The album opener, "Hudsonville, MI," paints a picture of a destructive tornado with acute detail and applies it all to one single man trying to reach a partner on the phone. This is one of the best cases of how the album so gracefully shifts its focus of a huge event to a human scale.
The music has stepped up as well. Guitarists Chad Sterenberg and Kevin Whittemore pull several influences from post-hardcore and alternative rock to create a more palatable sound that even one who is not a fan of the genre could grow accustomed to. Drummer Brad Vander Lugt and bassist Adam Vass create such a strong backbone to the songs, mostly due to the excellent production. The music is raw and simple yet has so much to offer with itself. "Woman (In Mirror)" shows the most ambitious side of the band, musically. Starting with an acoustic, Radiohead-esque riff, the song comes together with a snare-heavy drumbeat backed with thumpy bass. Dreyer's vocals here come closer to singing than ever before in their discography, as his tone is not far from the cathartic, slightly off-key feel of that of Brian McMahan of Slint. On the more emotional songs, the music takes the spotlight to drive the feelings home. The opening guitar and fuzzy bass line at the beginning of "35" mirrors the apocalyptic bedlam of Dreyer's frantic delivery as he tells the story of a bridge collapse.
The album is a cradle of emotion that never stops to breathe, whether reveling in its joy or sorrow. It's dangerous to ponder too hard on it because of this. Any evaluation of it has to be very slim because its mission is very simple: to move you. It's easy to pass this off as a collection of nothing more than bleeding heart, juvenile jargon. The band has tried their hand at everything from post-rock, screamo, and slam poetry, and the emotions they carry have always flowed freely through each stage of the band's development. The youthful lens that Jordan Dreyer so shamelessly peers through may be extraordinary to some, but off-putting and childish to others. His masterful writing is found in the subtlety of his tales. Through they are written in a very plain fashion, his delivery makes them seem so much more beautiful and honest. To some, it may be tiring. To the band, it's probably even tiring. But at least they're not afraid to share it.