“There are moments here only yours and mine; Tiny dots on an endless timeline”
Jordan Dreyer strains his voice in and out of convoluted yelps, explaining this endless timeline that occurs in his own mind on the track “Woman (in mirror)”. Arguably the best lyricist in the post-hardcore scene, Dreyer may have just outdone his last performance on Wildlife. La Dispute has been a band for ten years now and have released three studio albums and seven extended plays, but nothing compares to what they have done with Rooms of the House. Rooms challenges everything the band has put out to date and is the most introspective, vivid, cohesive effort they have produced.
The writing process for Rooms took place in a cabin in the upper peninsula of Michigan. From there, the band took their songs to Philadelphia, where producer Will Yip (Circa Survive, Balance and Composure, Title Fight) helped to shape the sound the band envisioned on their cabin retreat. It was La Dispute’s first time working with Yip, but proved to be a seamless transition while the band was able to reproduce their classic sound, and were also able to utilize Yip’s recording talents to the max. Every guitar tone, drum hit, bass pluck, and vocal shriek is presented directly and clearly.
While the production on the album is superb, the real kicker is Dreyer’s lyrics. Dreyer’s voice is the trademark that is La Dispute, and the cluttered words that display the kind of stories you read in novels is the substance that solidifies the band. The idea of Rooms of the House is an intertwining of actual life experiences from Dreyer and drummer Brad Vander Lugt (Dreyer’s cousin), with fictional characters, shaping this story of a breakup and what is to happen to the couples’ possessions once the relationship dwindles. While La Dispute is accustomed to putting out work with complex themes, this one goes above and beyond. It captures stories from Dreyer’s and Vander Lugt’s relatives, as can be seen on “The Child We Lost 1963”. The track is written from the perspective of Vander Lugt’s dad who experienced his mother (Dreyer and Vander Lugt’s grandmother) birthing a stillbirth. The song explores Vander Lugt’s father’s curiosity and lack of understanding in his youth as to what happened to his sister, and then reflecting and realizing what had happened. Once again, the complexity is on another level thematically. Also there are several trigger words that recur through several songs such as “radio”, “wind blowing”, “coffee steaming”, “cars”, “bridges” and “basement”. The recurrence of these words throughout different tracks helps to make the album feel as one coherent piece, along with its musical elements.
The songwriting is also on another level for La Dispute. While they have always put out articulate work, none have come close to this. The guitars complement each other throughout, always making sure that they are not interfering with Dreyer’s poetry, but instead supplementing it. “Woman (in mirror)” starts off like something off of Radiohead’s In Rainbows with soft programming and clean finger picking, then clearly takes form into a La Dispute track once Dreyer’s voice comes in. “Stay Happy There” has the intensity of classic La Dispute with the intricacy that has come with the band’s growth. “Woman (reading)” provides some of the clearest visuals of the whole record, talking about a girl reading in a living room, while the perspective is based from a man in the room over writing poetry and going over his own meta-commentary. While it provides the strongest visuals it is also the best constructed song on Rooms, with its head-bobbing drumming that instantly draws you in, smooth bass line guiding you through the story, and airy reverb-filled guitars. The album closer “Objects in Space” feels like Dreyer at a poetry open mic night in a coffee shop with a band backing his every move as he speaks about several objects and what they all could mean, or if they mean anything at all.
La Dispute just might have put out the record of 2014. Sure it’s early, but maybe this will give some other bands incentive to step up their songwriting. It’s amazing what they have been able to do and how prolific they are, while Dreyer seems to just be able to write endlessly descriptive stories at will. Apparently he experienced a bout with writer’s block a few weeks before the studio. You know who else experienced writer’s block during an album’s writing process? Thom Yorke during the writing process for Radiohead’s Kid A. It seems that genius comes from writer’s block, and La Dispute’s Rooms of the House is pure genius. Rooms of the House is available March 18 via Better Living Records. You can catch them on tour with Pianos Become the Teeth and Mansions this Spring.