Word of mouth is what seems to be the driving force in the music industry today. I’ve even reviewed some music that a friend has passed on to me, simply because they think it is something that needs to be listened to (including Foster the People, Big Sean, and AWOLNATION, just to name a few). So I was pretty skeptical when one of my friends approached me with the Michigan quintet, La Dispute. I’ve always heard great things about this band, whether it be from friends or from fellow reviewers. However, I just never gave the band a time of day.
After listening to their latest release, Wildlife, I feel like an idiot for not jumping on the La Dispute bandwagon. Wildlife is a well mixed concoction of post-hardcore screams, punk afterthoughts, and poetic storytelling that makes it one of the most unique, raw, and musically sound releases to come out of 2011.
From top to bottom, Wildlife is an energetic, atmospheric album, consisting of some of the most imaginative/story driven lyrics that I have ever heard. Oddly enough, this isn’t a concept album, but what seems to be a small collection of stories that is backed by bombastic experimental riffs and beats. “Safer in the Forest / Love Song for Poor Michigan” is reminiscent to The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black;” a simple, dark, and rather quiet (for the album) rock song describing a loner finally leaving his cold, bitter town. “Edward Benz, 27 Times” is a schizophrenic’s tale of anguish, and “A Poem” and “A Broken Jar” are lyrical letters to someone who seems to be driving themselves into an raw, emotional despair. Each song on here feels like it could be used at a spoken word recital, but instead, is being backed by heavy and melodic background music (which, by itself, is also superb).
The make-it-or-break-it part of the album relies solely on the singer. If you hate screaming types of music (for example, The Devil Wears Prada), but loves it when they get into their clear choruses, then this might be the perfect middle ground. Singer Jordan Dreyer’s singing style is mostly an angst-filled scowl; giving out raw intensity, but coming across to the listener as clear as any radio-friendly rock band. But what makes Jordan Dreyer a great singer for La Dispute are the lyrics that he puts into each song.
Case in point; “King Park.” The song is an almost seven minute story of a drive-by gone array, killing an innocent kid. The story leads the killer into his hotel room, surrounded by police, as he asks the men outside of his door “And if I turn it on me, if I even it out/Can I still get in, or will They send me to Hell/ Can I still get into Heaven if I killed myself?” That is just a small example of the poetry coming out of these songs, mixing them with incredible musical crescendos to produce almost cinematic images in the heads of the listeners.
The energy, the emotions, and the almost poetic storytelling of Wildlife makes it, at least for me, one of the best records of the year. Like I stated before, this album isn’t for everyone, mainly due to Jordan Dreyer’s intense, dark, and shouting vocal work. But if you can handle what Dreyer’s bringing to the LP, you will find yourself imagining every picture that he is screaming, creating an unforgettable musical experience. From top to bottom, this is one of the best rock albums of the year. Now, will you excuse me, I have to go listen to it again.
Final Grade: A
Go Download: The entire album, or “King Park” as a single