Review Summary: So let's say nothing some more.
The use of only clean vocals on Pianos Become the Teeth's new record Keep You has been subject to massive controversy and a schism between fans. Some praise the new direction as a breath of fresh air into the emo genre, while others spitefully disagree. They argue that the sound is not abrasive and violent enough to be interesting. They say it makes the instruments lethargic and simplistic, losing any intricate riffs and drumming the band was previously known for. Believe it or not, all of this is slightly true. The change in vocal styles affects the overall sound of the band quite dramatically, transforming their sound into something brand new. The instruments are all subdued to mostly slow and climatic pieces, losing much of the speed and velocity that was a big part of the band's sound on The Lack Long After and Old Pride. However, all of the changes to the bands sound together form something that burns slowly, like a single flame in the darkness. Its alone, struggling to burn amidst the cool air. It creates an atmosphere that is haunting, riveting, and beautiful all at once. Keep you is unlike anything the band has ever produced, it’s an emotional beast who entices listeners with its melancholy whisper.
While most of the band's previous efforts were ferocious and fast, Keep you attempts to slow down and build an atmosphere. The instruments no longer change speeds frantically, but instead weave a solid web of desperation and clarity. Each cymbal crash sounds as if a faint hint of smoke was dispelled into the air, slowly rising while the guitar weaves the pattern. Each instrument doesn't attempt to out due the others, inducing a musical structure where all of the instruments rely on each other to sound interesting. For the most part, it sounds absolutely blissful. Tracks like "Late Lives" and "The Queen" contain moments where everything fuses together to become a single yet powerful unit. However, the glistening guitar chords found on most of the tracks can be rather unimpressive at some points, and the simple drumming is sleep inducing during tracks some tracks such as "Traces" and "April Pianos", which almost sound like drivel thrown in at the last second to increase the length of the album.
Arguably the biggest change to the band's overall sound is the vocals. Lead vocalist Kyle Durfey ditches the harsh screaming, and using his smooth and subdued voice to contribute to one of the best parts about the album. His voice is powerful and passionate, especially when it is soaring above the many bombastic climaxes on the album. However, Kyle is especially competent at conveying the feelings of doubt and dread that are common themes sweltering in the atmosphere. Tracks like "Repine" and "Ripple Water Shine" showcase both aspects exceptionally well. They both have gripping choruses where Durfey's voice floats rigidly atop the swaying tide of the music, singing some of the best lyrics the band has put together. Even through all of this, there are also a few blemishes that adorn the new vocals. Just like the instruments, there is a major lack of variety. Some songs pass by without leaving any new impression because it seems as if you just listened to it.
There is one track on the record that stands above the rest substantially. The seven minute long closing track "Say Nothing" is everything that makes this album great all thrown into one incredible curtain closer. Slipping into the ears of the listener with a glossy guitar line and a slow drum beat, it steadily builds up without being too obvious. Kyle's voice then begins to build up in energy and power, and then unleashes everything with one powerful roar. It escalates with beautiful emotion, intense anger, and striking confidence. Its moments like these that were part of why "Hiding" was generally well received on its release. It was that grand feeling that swirled emotions and feelings into a blurred mess, fusing anger and regret into one solid entity. "Say Nothing" is incredible in its delivery, especially as the final lyrics are released, such as "Let the waters burn right away" and "I can't hold smoke" until the album concludes with a slow, burning guitar line.
While Keep You is not the Album of the Year many people have hoped for, it is still an excellent, moving work that should be appreciated. It’s a piece of burning passion, fused with lushly climatic songwriting that creates a beautiful atmosphere. It’s a change in direction that improved upon many aspects of the bands overall sound, even if individual aspects were slightly marred. Keep You is a solid step in the right direction, showing that the band is able to hold a firm grasp on their music, while entangling the listener in their web of intrigue.