Album Of The Week: La Dispute – ‘Rooms Of The House’

by Kyle McCormick
Kyle McCormick
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on 24 March 2014 in Features
Record Label Better Living
Rating 9/10

IT’S STILL TECHNICALLY THE WEEK OF RELEASE, IF YOU GO BUY THE AMERICAN RELEASE DATE, SO YOU CAN’T COMPLAIN. (But in all seriousness, apologies for cutting it so darn fine on posting this.) (On the bright side, you might two extended “Album of the Week” reviews in quick succession.)

I got into La Dispute as the consequence of a Tumblr-based mixtape swapping set-up, that was pretty awesome, and also introduced me to a lot of other new and great artists. That was between the release of the band’s first and second albums, ‘Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair’ and ‘Wildlife’, which allowed me to catch the band in Glasgow for their tour of the latter (it was awesome). But now, here I find myself with the band’s latest record ‘Rooms of the House’ in my hands and ears, and another side and slice of the Grand Rapids quintet to consume. Whilst the emotional and musical complexity of La Dispute is one of the most attractive aspects to me, in all honesty, trying to encapsulate all of that in a critical piece is pretty daunting.

Opening with the marching guitar line of ‘HUDSONVILLE, MI 1956’, it’s apparent that this record will be composed more ‘Wildlife’ storytelling that ‘Somewhere at the Bottom…’ super angst, which is fine by me (though I could appreciate both), and all those anti-screamo protesters. Meanwhile, the broken guitar sounds at the end of this song is a particularly effective touch, adding to the broken emotion throughout. ‘First Reactions After Falling Through the Ice’ follows and picks up in pace and vocal intensity from frontman Jordan Dreyer, showing that his sporadic style is still very much on the fore regardless of any dilution. The first of the melancholy ‘Woman’ tracks is the next to come, and it serves as a short interlude of breath; as well as an introduction to one of the record’s defining lyrics in “tiny dots on an endless timeline” which picks up on the insignificance of humanity in the grand scheme of universal motion; but enough of that teetering existential crisis for now.

Following this is a series of “stories” in typical ‘Wildilife’ fashion as mentioned before, but more in first person, that the third person observational stance of that album. One of the first album tracks to surface, ‘For Mayor In Splitsville’, features another of those defining moments in the form of “but I guess in the end we just move furniture around” which again toys with the notion of insignificant effect, whilst bringing to attention the underlying themes of treasuring of belongings and emotions attached to places of residence – that no doubt helped spawn the name ‘Rooms of the House’ in the first place. An emotive and endearing double-header of ‘THE CHILD WE LOST 1963’ and the second of the ‘Woman’ tracks brings the album onto its final stretch, before a sombre ‘Objects in Space’ brings an album of that stature to a close. Sombre by previously established La Dispute standards that is; and essentially impeccable by those standards as well.

Taking a more subtle approach than previous outings, as La Dispute settle into their new self-established label and collective, ‘Rooms of the House’ lets the band purge their emotional weight via a more “accessible” and “mature” (ew) sound. The quintet have forged a selection of emotive and endearing tracks that can be appreciated by dedicated fans and tentative new fans in equal measure.

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