Review Summary: Trimming the fat and unearthing a new identity.
Every band strives to find their muse. Every musician wants to encapsulate a sound in their music that defines them as musicians. Post-hardcore outfit I See Stars
have been no stranger to this journey. With many attempts, some being better than others, they have been a band that constantly searches for their identity and by extension the penultimate I See Stars
sound. Mixing Post-hardcore, EDM, Pop and Alt Rock in several different ways since their inception, showing snippets of promise in each crevasse of their music amidst a broad lens of unfavorable criticisms. Their latest work, Treehouse, shows a tight-knit and cohesive project that has the band sounding better than they ever have and it’s, daresay: One of the best album releases of this year.
EDM and Post-hardcore are admittedly strange genres to mix together, and while the idea of it might elicit many a cringe and flashback of Attack Attack
and Crabcore, the idea of the mix being tastefully done isn’t too far-fetched. In fact the EDM and Post-hardcore genres surprisingly have one thing in common, they’ve always stricken many as forms of music that lack substance on their own but hold potential for growth in the future. Most EDM lacks the powerful choruses or consistent and solid vocal performances found in most pop records. Whereas most Post-hardcore lacks the technicality or innovation that drives most modern metal and hard rock acts. What I See Stars
does on Treehouse is bring together each genre's strengths in a way that makes them both feel album-worthy, cohesive and gripping.
Treehouse is a large album, being around 50 minutes in length, and it’s one that despite this rarely overstays its welcome. Whether it be from the hard hitting guitars that transition to beautiful falsettos on the track ‘Light in the Cave’ or the traditional, yet superbly executed closing track ‘Yellow King” each song is diverse and varied enough to justify its length. The long length of this record actually helps the band fully explore a brand new approach to their sound, and it’s an approach that trims the fat of their previous releases and removes all of the genre cliches’ that keep people from looking at their music seriously.
The first four tracks of Treehouse show I See Stars’
newest musical direction in full spade as it becomes apparent from the get-go what they want to do. A lack of screams and more streamlined song structures are present in all of these tracks. With the pop flavored melodies in the stellar opener ‘Calm Snow’ the bands shift to a new softer and more dynamic sound is immediate and it is a welcome and nice change of pace. This new venture in sound is also prevalent in the standout track ‘Everyone’s Safe in the Treehouse.’ A song that’s instantly ear grabbing with a soothing and spacious opening that transitions to a hook that soars over its punching and epic instrumental. With this progressive change in musical influence, the first half of this album shows growth and maturity in a form of music that heavily lacked it.
The second half of the record presents a set of ethereal and atmospheric, yet aggressive tunes, each coated with sugary melodies that are intoxicating and catchy. Songs such as ‘Light in the Cave’ ‘Portals’ and ‘Two Hearted’ mix the bands crunching guitars, synthesizers and both electronic and natural drumming in a way that comes together as a sonic melting pot that against all odds works, and it works in a way that is refreshing and new.
Lyrically this record is also one of the most cohesive that I See Stars
has mustered together. Each song using a vast array of metaphors to capture the themes that represent the album as a whole. With themes revolving around winter, in both literal and figurative senses. The album embraces this somber, reflective and nostalgic tone and it matches the sound of the record well. Treehouse both feels like and tells a story about looking at a chaotic, destructive and beautiful world from a place that’s secure, and it strikes that mood with euphoria.
As with any album that has a shift in sound, there’s bound to be a flop or two. One song that will be a point of contention for many ‘All In’ is laden with Trap and R&B influence and rap verses that sound like 2nd rate impressions to something you’d find listening to Future or Young Thug, but the genre blend is extremely corny and in some bad taste. Another one of the weaker tracks ‘Mobbin Out’ seems overly pandering to live performances, the result is a track that feels empty and a bit out of place in context of the record.
Despite these gripes, this eclectic yet cohesive sound that I See Stars
has grasped on Treehouse shows nothing but mastery of the craft they’ve been trying to perfect since their 2009 debut. Gone are the days of horrible transitions and poorly placed breakdowns. Gone are the days of overly whiny, auto-tuned singing and stoic lyricism. Gone are the days of sticking screams in places where they don’t belong. After many failed attempts from many different bands, I See Stars
has hit the nail on the head of the genre mix of post-hardcore and EDM.