First off, let's get one thing straight. This is in no way a metal album. I'm not one to dwell on genres, and I can't stand the idea of confining a band into a box, but I must admit, there are few things even slightly resembling metal in this album, or the band overall for that matter. I was actually genuinely surprised to find A Lot Like Birds
's extensive archives. Conversation Piece
is rather, a post-hardcore album. However, I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that often, I use the term "post hardcore" to describe bands that don't quite fit into metalcore, don't quite fit into hard rock, and usually have no other genre to call home, which is why there is so much diversity within bands that are considered "post-hardcore". Sure, there are straight-up post-hardcore bands, such as Escape
, or D.R.U.G.S., but there are many that are filed into post-hardcore landfills mainly because they are unique and often defy genres. A Lot Like Birds
can be considered one of these bands. But be warned, listener, As chaotic as they can be, ALLB makes no attempts at being brutal, dark, or slamming. If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, I suggest ignoring this album. But if you dare to continue, I think you'll be pleased. Now, on with the review!
When I first listened to A Lot Like Birds
's Conversation Piece
, I was truly pleased. The music was technical, mathematical, and a genuine ear candy. However, the sound didn't seem to be revolutionary or game changing, simply because there was no need to do any more than to scratch the surface of their sound. Just blindly listening, treating it like background music, seemed to be enough. I filed the band away into my mental music library and moved on.
To my fortune, I stumbled across Conversation Piece
again, not more than a month after my first listen. Maybe I was feeling excessively reflective that day, because this time around, I paid attention. It didn't take much to be drawn in. I found myself so enveloped in each and every song, and I had no choice but to experience the album the way it was meant to be experienced, from beginning to end. Yet, I still hadn't really heard the album in it's fullest, and I knew it. I picked up the physical CD as soon as possible, and began my journey into the depths of every song.
Every time I have listened to this album since my purchase (which is upwards of 200 times), I've found some new tidbit to lead me further into the web that is Conversation Piece
. The release is chaotic, schizophrenic, beautiful, thoughtful, energetic, catchy, complicated, unique, diverse, progressive, and full of ambient and orchestral sounds. With ex-Dance Gavin Dance
Travis on board, the band shows progression from Plan B
in a way that's as reflective as it is spasmodic. Diverse styles are combined seamlessly; there's no "genre hopping" here.
As for the stringed instruments, there are slippery, catastrophic guitar and bass riffs on tracks like "Orange Time Machines Care" that morph into slow, expressive, carefully plucked notes, on tracks like "The Blowtorch is Applied to the Sugar
". Drums keep crazy, technical beats that so define the mood of Conversation Piece
. Vocals alter between fortunately moderated, gritty, down-to-earth screams and melodic, honest, heartfelt, howling clean vocals. Lyrics are personal, uncensored, honest, and metaphorical all at once, and the sprinkles of orchestral and electronic elements are a touch that prove the band isn't stuck in the past.
All in all, Conversation Piece
is a post-hardcore album that gives a good argument for the benefit of combining musical influences shamelessly and relentlessly. A Lot Like Birds
experiments with the future of the genre while reminding us of the post-rock and post-hardcore outfits that came before them. Still, Conversation Piece
is best when enjoyed beyond the surface, and to fully experience it, it may take mental push on the listener's part. Make no mistake, though, it's 100% worth it.