Fresh, exciting, and utterly incomparable; this album is a masterclass in experimental rock done right.
Australian quintet Hands Like Houses represents a unique niche of the alternative/experimental rock scene. Formed in 2008, the band took some time to release an album but, when they finally did, it was a game changer: 2012’s Ground Dweller garned almost unanimous praise from critics and fans alike, and set in motion one of the most successful alternative rock careers of the last decade. Dissonants, their third full-length record, is a further refinement of that explosively innovative style.
The opener is ‘I Am’, a beautiful musical melee which fans will already be very familiar with (the track was released almost a year ago, in March 2015). It sets up Hands Like Houses’ new, slightly heavier version of themselves with unremitting gusto; ‘I Am’ is loud and in-your-face, boasting an impressive array of powerful hooks but polished to a degree that is easily recognisably from their sophomore album Unimagine. Looking for dazzling synths and smooth vocal melodies? You’ll like the next track then. ‘Perspectives’ is a stylistic nod to their first record, with Tyler Carter-esque vocals from frontman Trenton Woodley played out over low-slung riffs and tight percussive work.
The next few tracks sew together Hands Like Houses old and new, melody and heaviness, pure energy and calculated precision: ‘Colourblind’ and ‘Glasshouse’ are, put simply, utterly sublime examples of this. ‘Momentary’ swoops in with gorgeously textured synths and an upbeat vocal-guitar combination. The following track, ‘Motion Sickness’, slows down the tempo for a near-empyrean experience that lifts the listener, for a moment, out of the rumbling weight of the previous songs. ‘Degrees of Separation’ and ‘Grey Havens’ bear a strong resemblance to the tried-and-tested, ethereal musicality that Hands Like Houses perfected in Unimagine. Some might find this a little too strong considering the stylistic leaps and bounds the band have made with this album, but this doesn’t distract from the flow of the album at all and is just a minor nit-pick. Final track ‘Bloodlines’ flourishes the record to a close with a gentle fade and emotively vigorous vocals.
Dissonants is a masterpiece of modern experimental rock. Lyrically, it’s poignant and moving orders of magnitude above anything else in the scene, perfectly complimenting the symphony of surrounding sound. Stylistically, every track feels cohesive and organic; the album as a whole marries together the band’s multi-faceted approach to alternative rock with no space wasted. Hands Like Houses have ascended onto a higher musical plane simply by being themselves and doing it right, refining their signature sound and inflecting it with sustained bouts of glossy new material. If they were trying to make their best album yet, my God did they succeed in doing so.
Dissonants is out now via Rise Records.