“I’ve got a pocketbook of dark, black pick-up lines…”
This provocative line from the song “Think Dirty Out Loud” is just one of the memorable lyrics that permeate Conversation Piece, the latest outing from the San Francisco-based post-hardcore outfit A Lot Like Birds. This is an album with some damn smart writing behind it; it ain’t no Five Finger Death Punch – that much is for sure. I think my favorite line comes from “A Satire of a Satire of a Satire is Tiring” – simple and smart quip: “What you’ve got in smarts, I’ve got ten times in dreams.”
However good the lyrics may be, however, it’s the music that gets you hooked, and boy am I hooked on the tunes these guys put out. A Lot Like Birds is a post-hardcore band, but only in a loose sense; their music is so much more varied and interesting than the generic offerings from bands like blessthefall, Jamie’s Elsewhere, and Atreyu (not to say I don’t like those bands – they’re just not terribly original). You can draw a lot of comparisons to Dance Gavin Dance, another post-hardcore band that pushed the envelope and got remembered for it. These comparisons are warranted, as A Lot Like Birds’ lead singer, Kurt Travis, is an ex-DGD vocalist. You’ll definitely hear similarities in the vocal harmonies, but you’ll also notice similar progressive-inspired riffs and guitar lines throughout.
Dance Gavin Dance isn’t the only influence you’ll hear in Conversation Piece; indeed, during my many repeated listens, I was reminded of several bands, including The Fall of Troy, Closure in Moscow, Tides of Man, and La Dispute. While A Lot Like Birds definitely play original music, you can’t help but feel like they’re amazingly good at taking the best elements out of post-hardcore’s best bands of past and present. I’m not the only one who thinks this; another reviewer had this to say of the album:
It would not be, by any stretch of the imagination, too much to claim that Conversation Piece serves as a definitive time capsule of the best that post-hardcore has had to offer throughout the years.
If you’re not familiar with those other bands, though, you’re probably asking yourself, “What’s this music actually like?” I’d say you should fire up the embedded sample tracks to find out, but to describe them in writing, I’d say they’re a really progressive, bombastic type of post-hardcore. Amidst the frantic trading of Cory Lockwood’s screams and Kurt Travis’ beautiful cleans (which sometimes even come close to the soulfulness of Jonny Craig’s – much to my delight), you’ll hear a lot of really technical, varied guitar passages, nicely audible bass, and great drumming. Out of all the instruments, the guitar steals the spotlight here in my opinion. The only exception would be the song “Vanity’s Fair”, in which the bass is so groovy that it’ll make you want to start dancing. Seriously.
To be honest, the only thing that would improve this album is more cleans and less screams. While Cory’s screaming is very good, Kurt’s cleans are the stuff of legend and I want to hear more of them. Just listen to the aforementioned “A Satire of a Satire of a Satire is Tiring” for your proof.
Conversation Piece is still racking up repeated plays on my morning walks to class, and I think it’s going to end up being one of my favorite post-hardcore albums. This is definitely one record you want to check out.