La Dispute – Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega and Altair

 

Band: La Dispute
Album: Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega and Altair
Genre: Experimental Rock
Label: No Sleep

Tracks:
1. Such Small Hands
2. Said The King to The River
3. New Storms for Old Lovers
4. Damaged Goods
5. Fall Down, Never Get Back Up Again
6. Bury Your Flame
7. Last Blues For Bloody Knuckles
8. The Castle Builders
9. Andria
10. Then Again, Maybe You Were Right 
11. Sad Prayers for Guilty Bodies
12. The Last Lost Continent
13. Nobody, Not Even The Rain 

 

To Whom It May Concern: Your new favorite band has arrived. Grand Rapids, Michigan’s La Dispute, a band we covered earlier this year have a new record deal and a debut album to go with it. Somewhere at The Bottom of The River Between Vega and Altair is a stunning work that will be released on November 11th through No Sleep Records. Blending modern rock, hardcore, poetry, and about a million other limbs of the musical tree, this album is sure to take anyone by surprise and trust me – this is an album EVERYONE needs to hear.

Starting with a subtle swagger of melodic guitar, “Such Small Hands,” instantly syncs itself up to your inner being. Jordan’s voice sounds so clear and eloquent that even as it crescendos with each stanza, it all happens so smoothly you never notice how electric it grows to be. Each instrument has very clear parts and it all swells with the vocals to one quick, fleeting accent before disappearing into a spattering of drums. The lyrics automatically grab your attention and lets you know the intensely thought-provoking La Dispute we’ve come to know are still around and even better than ever. “Said The King To The River,” is next up on this delicious musical buffet. From the beginning, there is a frenzy in the air thanks to tambourine work in the background, and the lead in that ends with the sure-to-be fan favorite, “tonight we ride, tonight we ride.” Jordan sounds like a manic person as words flow like water from a river from his mouth with perfect enunciation and emphasis. The guitar work also shines here as it is simply above and beyond anything the band has accomplished thus far in their career. Also, it should be noted that the production shines like no one’s business and to think this is the same group of people who worked on the band’s previous works shows this album is not only a monument for the band, but something to be revered by those behind the scenes as well. A simple clanging of chimes segways us into the full forced introduction of, “New Storms For Old Lovers.” This is a no holds barred track that is seemingly relentless until a brief a cappella moment used to not only emphasize lyrics, but to change the song’s musical structure in a way that continues to attack without just giving us the same series of chords over and over again. Guitars duel, bass lines growl, and drums pulsate beneath Jordan’s feverish vocals and it all makes for something that can only leave one in awe, especially as it all slows down for a bridge that stays with the listener long after the track ends. After that, it’s the instrumentation that seals “Damaged Goods” in gold. The drum work is more frantic than the vocals and the guitars have a mainstream chug to them, but with enough attitude to keep things underground while the bass acts like a wolf about to pounce. “So we escape to our mistakes for they wait patiently for us, /oh how they always wait for me, /if my fear has kept me here, /only my fear can set me…free,” slams through the speakers with bass accompaniment and hits like a bullet to your chest before a guitar solo, yes, guitar solo leads us out of yet another flawless track.

There’s something timeless about the structure of “Fall Down, Never Get Back Back Up Again”, the fourth track on this masterpiece of a record. It may be the hand claps and it may be the flow with which Jordan speaks, but as soon as the track begins, you know exactly what I am talking about. The song has an aura you can’t turn away from and heed like a decree from a king. It’s a soft piece that gives us just enough time to begin to re-appreciate the beauty in simplicity. Then, with little warning, things begin to build up once more. “Bury Your Flame” speeds up the claps and adds the to the whole band, who play with a much more driving sound than on other tracks. This isn’t full force rock, but elegantly designed rock with a guitar part that should impress almost any player. The portraits painted in Jordan’s words cannot be denied, and the band’s work on accents and structure has grown to better fit and flow as an extension of the words themselves. Instead multiple musicians playing at once here, but a single unit of sound attacking and conquering your mind. This track will be a hit for sure, the addition of gang vocals making it known that this is going to become a live staple, and it should be. “Last Blues For Bloody Knuckles” brings back the chime sounds and joining it is a reverberation-laced guitar and intricate snare work. Things begin softly with some violin accompaniment, but build flawlessly, first with a second guitar part, then bass and tom parts, and finally the bass line. Everything falls into place as the vocals reappear in time to weave a pleading tale of a husband conversing with his love. “The Castle Builders”, a track that starts with a nearly disjunct melody, flows into a sound long time fans will instantly connect with and embrace. It has the feel of the band’s first release, but with a new level of maturity, knowledge, and overall skill added into the mix. The key to this track (for those of you just flipping through the album your first time) would be the breakdown that arises at the end of the track seamlessly from the chords that proceed it. It’s heavy, short, and leaves you aching for more. What more could you ask?

I’m sure this record will draw comparisons to anything Mewithoutyou has ever released and that’s never been more obvious than the beginning of, “Andria.” The spoken word monologue over simplistic instrumentation bring to mind the first song from MwY’s Brother, Sister, but as soon as it ends, it’s all La Dispute’s style of music. Once again, the band creates a sound that resembles a pot about to boil throughout the verses, until it all boils over in beautiful musical climax. It may sound like this style of writing is becoming repetitive on the album, but the band has found a way to almost make it feel so fresh you would never notice unless you’re looking for it. The track then takes a curve and calms down into more moderate rock as Jordan ponders if time can take the pain away from lost love. The whole track plays out to the best degree and leaves you with a smile, and gives teens plenty of lines to scrawl on notebooks and Myspace walls. Everything then speeds way up and becomes heavier with “Then Again, Maybe You Were Right”. The musical aspect could come from any hardcore band, but it’s the mixture of this along with the vocals that sets La Dispute in a genre they alone occupy and dominate. Sliding guitars, thick bass work, and nonstop drums make this a nominee for best track on the album and is sure to be a fan favorite. Then again, it only lasts for ninety six seconds, so if they bring it to the live scene, you can be sure people will lose their minds for every pounding moment. Even though it’s a fury of a track, it flows perfectly into the much more relaxed beginning of the following track. “Sad Prayers for Guilty Bodies” is a vocal centric track, but all for good reason. Jordan’s lyrics shine once more and just take everything to a new place that we just don’t have enough of in the music scene today. Though, I need to point out two things in the song that have nothing to do with vocals. There’s a moment in the production before everything kicks into high gear where you can hear the amp kick in and it just sets the tone for what follows. Also, the bridge has a near folk like tone to the guitar work and it finds a way to fit into this pulsing rock sound that just captivates the listener. I mean, you can hear the vocals at this point in the song, but it may take a few listens to focus on them as the music steals the scene. The albums grand finale is actually broken up between the last two tracks. “The Last Lost Continent”, which hits us first and lasts twelve solid minutes without any silence. That’s right, a true twelve minute track that just leaves one with their jaw on the floor. The instrumentation and structure take the lead here and keep things interesting while the vocals appear at random times to make lasting impacts. At one point, in the midst of simple instrumentation, Jordan very calmly proclaims, “I will give your heart a place to rest when everything you have has turned and left,” and then, instead of kicking into high gear, the band continues being subtle. It’s a stunning moment of simplicity as it makes that perfect line resonate in the void of driving tones. Things then pick up in the last few minutes and ends with gang vocals that seem, like the rest of the track, to be a call to arms for lovers and it succeeds in every way imaginable. This takes us to a pounding tom sound that ended the first track and begins the last one which is entitled, “Nobody, Not Even The Rain.” with more expression and intensity than it used to begin the album, these familiar sounds along with striking lyrics that reach into your chest and hook straight up with your heart. You’re left feeling nothing but happiness and a longing to press play once more.

Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega and Altair is, without a doubt in my mind, the best album of 2008. Every note played and every word uttered carries a message that one cannot help, but become consumed in. La Dispute have crafted one of those rare albums that will never lose it’s bite or impact. For a band coming out of nowhere to most of the country, it won’t be long until La Dispute is the name on everyone’s lips. This album will change your perspective on powerful, moving, and simply great music. It’s near, if not, flawless and I have no problems giving them the title they deserve as the band with the best album of the year. In fact, I don’t know who in the foreseeable future will even hold a candle to this. Bravo boys, bravo.

 

*Written By: James Shotwell*
GRADE: 10/10

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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