La Dispute: Rooms of the House

16 Dec

If you’re going to buy, or just listen to, one new album this year, let it be this one.

??Rooms of the House is more of an anthology of potent poems given breadth and depth by music than it is an album: the band’s dynamic, layered, post-hardcore instrumental style serves to augment the emotional landscapes mapped out in the lyrics, and Jordan Dreyer’s spoken/shouted-word vocals function as a dramatic reading sharpening their dynamics. This 42-minute journey through the elusive, shadowy topography in which a stranger’s mind overlaps with yours is littered with literary devices for framing and giving meaning to memory:

Funny what you think of after a collapse
While lying in the dirt the first thing that comes back is never quite what you’d have guessed…
We played house with the neighbors in their basement…
I remember once their dad came in said, “You think this is bad?
You don’t know the half.” And he laughed…
…he sort of smiled like “it’s only a joke” but he was lying
There was something else inside of his eyes
All those secrets people tell to little children
Are warnings that they give them
Like, “Look, I’m unhappy. Please don’t make the same mistake as me.”

For Mayor in Splitsville

Story threads are dropped and subtly picked up again in later songs, like the frantic mother in “HUDSONVILLE, MI 1956” glimpsing bookshelf plans on her father’s basement workbench during a storm, linking to later when we hear the speaker watching his grandfather build his grandmother a bookshelf in “Extraordinary Dinner Party”. Some songs, like “Woman (reading)” and “Objects in Space” are more plainly knotted together. In their totality this lattice of crossovers forms an intricate tapestry of despairing, commonplace life. La Dispute‘s lyrics – unsettling contemplation transmitted through the utterly mundane – exercise the unique ability, unlike the pretentiously beautified fragments of coherence we find in even the most emotive songs by other bands, to cut straight to the bones of our everyday grim realities and press on them. “35” is a particularly bloodcurdling example of this:

Drivers out on the bridge
Slowing down as they go through a lane shift
Wires snap
Concrete gives
Metal twisting and
Everything tumbling
At the end of the work day
Stuck in traffic don’t feel when the road sways…
To their partners and kids
Don’t suspect anything till the bridge splits…
And I watch it on TV lying down here
On the floor in the dining room reversed in the mirror
Where I know I’m not dreaming now
But I know I’ve been sleeping
I just don’t know since when
I only know that it’s light outside
I only know that the rent is still late
When did they find out the concrete gave?
When did they learn that the wires snapped?

However, also trapped within Rooms of the House‘s complex web is the whispered reminder that our most-mourned treasures will be found in retrospect in the things we overlook. “Woman (in mirror)” may be the most genuine love song I have ever heard.

Rooms of the House will add new terrain to the world you explore when you close your eyes, and new characters to the conversations in your mind. Above and beyond a music album, this is a raw, cohesive literary masterpiece.


For a seasoned La Dispute fan’s perspective on this album, listen to this Indiesputable Podcast review.


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