Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Touché Amoré - Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me

Good instrumentation, very one note lyrics, sounds ridiculous on a track like "Condolences"
Very short tracks but they all flow together with almost no stops whatsoever so it flows together
then just stops abruptly at the end of the album

Touché Amoré is a post-hardcore band from LA that have been making quite a buzz with their newest album, pleasing a lot of post-hardcore fans who've been disappointed by the more recent efforts to come from the genre. And while I wouldn't call myself the biggest post-hardcore fan by any means, I like quite a few bands that have been at the very least strongly influenced by 90's post-hardcore bands like At the Drive-In and Fugazi. So I came into this expecting to find something I'd like. However what I've found is a very bittersweet experience.
This album is fairly predictable if you know post-hardcore. It's very aggressive, slightly melodic guitar riffs, equally aggressive drums, and yelling/screaming vocals. There's only one single track on this album that goes over two minutes long. However this isn't that much of a problem because one thing this album does well is flow one track to the next. If you don't watch as the tracks change you likely won't know when one stops and the next begins. Usually a riff will end quiet down very briefly and then it immediately goes to the next in-your-face song. We do have a couple quieter moments here though, where the music is less aggressive and sounds more along the lines of "emo" music. I don't really consider emo to be a genre, but these guys seem to be influenced by the kind of music that's usually tagged as emo. It's especially apparent in the lyrics, which might remind one of Brand New. But back to the instrumentation, there's a lot to like here. While it's aggressive it is so in a very likeable way and has some really catchy parts. The guitar work is really what's worthy of praise. The drumming never particularly stood out to me as anything fantastic but I do think it compliments the guitars well enough. However there are few moments where there's any sign of a bass, and when there is it's pretty unremarkable, which is a really huge pet peeve for me (as a bassist myself). But there's even a short piano part in this album that comes across quite emotive and touching, for a moment at least. And that brings me to my biggest problem with this album...
As I said before, here we have aggressive, yelling, screaming vocals. And he's doing this for like 85% of the album. Rarely is he not screaming something in your face. While I rarely have a high opinion of them, I can deal with aggressive vocals, especially in post-hardcore bands. BUT, what I really like in any sort of genre, is variation. Especially in vocals, especially when they're present for this much of the album. Because otherwise I will get incredibly tired of what I'm hearing very soon. And that's what's going on here. This guy is one note. He has one gear in a broken stick shift. I had the same problem with Fucked Up's latest album too. I always enjoy the first couple tracks of this album while I'm hearing them, but by the time I get to about the halfway mark it feels like there is a cheese grater taped to my brain and it just irritates the hell out of me and anything I found appealing in the music is quickly forgotten. Especially since with the production here, the vocals are mixed at the same level, if not a bit higher, than the guitars. There are some moments on this album where I think the vocals just sound absolutely ridiculous in juxtaposition to the music. While the first six tracks or so are pretty much non-stop aggressiveness, later tracks make a few efforts to have more quiet, emotional, and sentimental moments. Especially at the beginning of "Condolences" when there's a nice sad (if simple) piano melody going on. But right as you're starting to get used to the abrupt change and enjoy it, the vocals come in again, just screaming at you. And while the lyrics may well fit the mood change, the vocals laughably don't. I literally laughed out loud the first time I heard it. Especially since they do something different with the production and it sounds like he's yelling it from across a large empty room. So basically I picture someone playing a nice piano on one side of the room while the vocalist is drunkenly yelling at his girlfriend on the other side of the room. That's what it sounds like. And it's ridiculous in my opinion.
However I have to acknowledge that the aggressive vocals may very well just not be my thing, and I know a lot of post-hardcore purists will have absolutely no problem with them. That's why even though I just bitched about this album for a good bit, I'm still recommending it to anyone that likes aggressive music, specifically post-hardcore. So long as you don't mind the slight "emo" influences, that is. And if you don't care about one-note vocalists. It's just a very big pet-peeve of mine that can very quickly ruin something I would have loved otherwise, and this is a prime example. So in summary, I really liked the guitar work in this album and would have liked it much more had there been variation in the vocals, particularly when the instrumentation tries to change up. I can see myself coming back and listening to bits and pieces of this album at a time, but that's about it. Most others are enjoying this a lot more than me, so check it out and see what you think.


Favorites: Pathfinder, The Great Repition


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