Palm Reader
Sleepless


4.5
superb

Review

by Jesper L. CONTRIBUTOR (51 Reviews)
December 1st, 2020 | 195 replies


Release Date: 11/27/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Bleak, heavy, dreamy

Sleepless is the kind of album that refuses to let go. From its first urgent, unnerving notes to the meandering guitars that close out Palm Reader’s latest effort, every second provides the essential components for one hell of an overall experience. While the British band have always been experts at putting forth crushing, emotive works of post-hardcore, this fourth full length manages to double down on every positive quality and amplify the atmosphere to an overwhelmingly gorgeous extent.

As such, it is incredibly easy to deconstruct Sleepless and distinguish why it excels as a whole, which is a feat in itself. Firstly, regardless of whether he is quietly enhancing a song’s ambience by gently singing or letting out ear-piercing screams, vocalist Josh Mckeown proves an essential part of the band all throughout. He manages to perfectly complement the music when necessary or lead a track when it requires guidance; the two elements are in consistent and impeccable harmony. Opener and lead single ‘Hold/Release’ displays Mckeown’s strengths right from the start: his urgent yells gel perfectly with the unsettling riff, before smoothly transitioning into a huge chorus where a prolonged wail of ‘euphoria will never make a home in me’ more than suffices to set the despairing tone. While such delightful contrasts show up all over the record, ‘Stay Down’ sees Mckeown effortlessly switching between screams, cleans and half-yelled vocals, augmenting the song’s chaotic and ruthless nature while displaying the vocalist’s technical proficiency.

Secondly, every single instrument can be identified for its excellence and praised for Sleepless’ success. While any song could be picked to demonstrate this, ‘A Love That Tethers’ makes an exceptional case for itself as it not only incorporates one of the many dense basslines to be found across the album, it also provides a post-rock section between its explosive verses. Here, the sheer beauty of the guitars can be felt, equal parts dazzlingly bright and overwhelmingly heavy. As the drums calmly crash back in and mark the transition into the final section of the track, every aspect appears pieced together with surgical precision while retaining the undeniably organic, authentic feeling that makes Palm Reader great. When a slightly weaker chorus rears its head in the form of ‘Willow’, the band instantly remedies this by providing excellent, technical riffs paired with a highly demanding rhythm section.

Lyrically, Mckeown manages to carefully inspect the atmosphere crafted by the instrumentals and use it to his advantage as well as enhance it. Embracing the song’s structure, the somewhat uplifting ‘Ending Cycle’ finds the vocalist describing a newfound sense of strength in the verses: ’A bold attack on any doubts I had / A step forward into boldness and it’s holding’. Subsequently, the colossal chorus slightly twists this optimism and roots it in dim realism through an acceptance of darkness, rather than a fear of it. Accompanied by slow, pulsating drums, Mckeown cries: ’The winding of life’s path eventually leads / to finding the shadows cast are where they’re meant to be’, making for one of Sleepless’ most touching moments. Similarly, ‘A Bird and Its Feathers’ is an emotionally obscured affair, allowing for an exploration of the edges of this very established realism: ’We slipped and surrounded each other / Lost in bliss and its boundless wonder’.

Yet, as good as every individual element may be, their true excellence and potential only shines when packaged collectively as Sleepless. Functioning as a glue for the incredible songwriting is the equally brilliant production by Lewis Johns. Every instrument gets a chance to shine when it needs to, without unnecessarily subduing other elements or detracting from the atmosphere. A reasonable amount of reverb adds a nice touch of ambience, primarily to the album’s cleaner choruses. The aforementioned ‘A Bird and Its Feathers’ marks the start of the album's best stretch, followed by the fully instrumental ‘Islay’ and closed out by ‘False Thirst’. The two bookends are expansive tracks, relying on tension-building instrumentals and overpowering choruses. The latter allows the blackened reality of Sleepless to unfold even further, with unsettling lines such as ’I’m intact / I don’t feel the same’ setting the tone for a song that, in spite of its gloomy nature, manages to display glimmers of hope. Due to the nature of these emotionally exhaustive tracks, ‘Islay’ does not merely function as an interlude, rather, it provides a highly needed moment of clarity; a chance to breathe before being pulled back into the ravishing, dark depths of the album.

Sleepless is a beautiful album from an incredible band that deserve so much more attention and praise. By improving on every element of their songwriting for the fourth record in a row, Palm Reader have crafted their best work yet. It’s bleak, it’s heavy, it’s dreamy: simply put, it’s one of the best albums of the year as well as a perfect fit for this particular time of year.



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user ratings (159)
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
December 1st 2020


2234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album is incredible

listen here or spotify or wherever else: https://wearepalmreader.bandcamp.com/album/sleepless

Digging: Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou - The Helm Of Sorrow

Slex
December 1st 2020


10923 Comments


Mmmmm hell yeah awesome write up bud
AOTY right here

Digging: Seiko Oomori - Kintsugi

SteakByrnes
December 1st 2020


22119 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Dude yes excellent review, loving this even more than Braille. Hold/Release is for sure one of my favorite songs of the year, that chorus is incredible

JS19
December 1st 2020


7700 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

band smash the choruses and catchy moments here on top of their incredible songwriting - why it's their best

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
December 1st 2020


2234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

euphoriaaa

thanks so much guys! and yeah js19 that is definitely the tldr haha :]

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
December 1st 2020


12462 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Heck yeah. Album deserves attention. Nicely done my man, wish I liked this as much as everyone else.

Digging: Yon - order of violence

hel9000
Contributing Reviewer
December 1st 2020


946 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sweet review man. This was pretty good on first listen

Digging: Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

DDDeftoneDDD
December 1st 2020


15407 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Allright then...will read! Haven t rated cause I have not finnished it yet but aiming at 4.5

Digging: Hulder - Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry

Project
December 1st 2020


4579 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I owe this more spins because I did not gel with this on my first listen; I can't put my finger on it but I think the production did not sit well with me.



this is a really good review though and part of why I'll give this another shot

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
December 1st 2020


2234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

tyty! hope this will unfold itself for you project, and that's rly kind :]

bloc
December 1st 2020


64367 Comments


Forgot the last album, will check this

Mattallica
December 1st 2020


6 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Amazing album from a band who just get better and better. Awesome review too!

SteakByrnes
December 1st 2020


22119 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yo for real lol, band just keeps getting better with each release it's insane

onionbubs
December 1st 2020


12809 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

man i picked the right time to get into these guys this owns so much

Digging: Glaswing - I'm in the Checkout Line of My Life

bloc
December 1st 2020


64367 Comments


Just heard the first minute of the first song and the vocals are fuckin wack lol

DDDeftoneDDD
December 1st 2020


15407 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I like the vocals, like an older Greyhaven.

ieatbabies795
December 1st 2020


569 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This band use to sound kinda like a Dillinger Escape Plan imitator but they’ve really come into their own.

Digging: Twin Tribes - Ceremony

Slex
December 1st 2020


10923 Comments


The vocals are incredible lmao

jpaulwegenast
December 1st 2020


96 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Vocals are so unique and well-delivered. I feel like almost all parts of song structure on this album were really thought through and carry deep intention. Love it, so much feeling.

DDDeftoneDDD
December 1st 2020


15407 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah its like a kid who ain t a kid anymore...def a plus here



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