Friday, October 7, 2011

Album Review: La Dispute - Wildlife

Late one evening I was lucky enough to stumble upon Here, Hear III, a four track free release by a band with a strange name. The title of the release grabbed my attention, as the play on words was clever and I was drawn to the modest vibe of the name. Blown away by the beauty and depth of the release, I moved on to what was La Dispute’s most recent release, Somewhere at the Bottom of the River between Vega and Altair. The artsy title and album art made me weary, but the emotional ride that was the short intro track quickly vacated my concerns. Jordan Dreyer’s harsh and emotional cry over a dark soundscape made for one of most honest and real pieces of art I had been exposed to. I fell in love with the album and found myself collecting the rest of their releases with confidence. La Dispute released Somewhere in 2008, and in the time since that release they put together a pretty strong reputation for themselves. Now, three full years later, La Dispute releases their follow-up, Wildlife, through No Sleep Records on October 4th.

Wildlife is a 58 minute examination of the woes of our society and the pain felt by some of its most distraught members. It is truly an uncomfortable record with graphic lyrics that have no problem directly confronting difficult questions concerning morality and mortality. The record has a bit less of a central theme than Somewhere had. Wildlife is more of a collection of short stories. The instrumentation of the record is a step up from Somewhere, with some very clever riffs and chord structuring. However, the guitar lines have lost some of their edge. This is obviously a conscious decision, but as Somewhere lost some of the Every Time I Die-inspired punk mentality of La Dispute’s debut, Vancouver, Wildlife ends all connection. Wildlife is the correct and logical progression for La Dispute’s sound, making Somewhere the perfect bridge between Vancouver and Wildlife.

The production of the record is impressive. The guitar tones have great character and are surprisingly unique. The kit has a crisp bite and the tom-toms are muffled to great effect. However, Dreyer is set a bit too far back in the mix for his place in the group. Overall the record is La Dispute’s most impressive effort yet.

However, Wildlife, despite its excellence, has not had the same emotional impact on me that Somewhere has had. The frantic energy felt throughout Somewhere is scarce on Wildlife. Not until "St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church Blues" is the same hectic draw felt again, and this time, a bit toned down. "Safer in the Forest/Love Song for Poor Michigan" and the "Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit" are strong points of the record, and "King Park" is perhaps La Dispute’s greatest work yet. However, despite how appealing "A Broken Jar" is, the rest of the record blends together and slowly brings itself to conclusion, beating the same thematic choices into the listener. Every track on the record is impressive and well done. I just find that La Dispute’s appeal is not as strong as it has been and could be. The most likely culprit is the fact that La Dispute knew exactly what they wanted to do and how to do it. Wildlife is incredibly professional. Perhaps the greatest appeal of Somewhere is that it was a group of kids trying to find their place in music, questioning their future.

La Dispute did an excellent job with Wildlife. It is sure to be at the top of many album of the year lists, and it is well worthy of such an accolade. I just don’t feel the same connection to Wildlife that I felt with Somewhere. I am, however, thoroughly excited to see what La Dispute comes up with next.



01. A Departure
02. Harder Harmonies
03. St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church Blues
04. Edit Your Hometown
05. A Letter
06. Safer In The Forest/Love Song For Poor Michigan
07. The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit
08. A Poem
09. King Park
10. Edward Benz, 27 Times
11. I See Everything
12. A Broken Jar
13. All Our Bruised Bodies And The Whole Heart Shrinks
14. You and I in Unison