An notorious trope of the music industry is the band that decides to radically alter their sound. These kinds of decisions often leave fans polarized, scratching their heads, and yearning for a return to form. Most sensible fans can acknowledge that a band’s sound is multifaceted and they have the freedom to focus on certain elements over others.

Pianos Become the Teeth are known for their melodic, intensely angry, post-hardcore sound. Their songs are typically driven by an assault of heavy guitars, strained shouts for vocals and uncompromisingly powerful drumming.

Yet the group has always had the tendency to pull back, embracing moments of clean melody and post-rock in between their massively heavy passages. On their latest album, “Keep You,” Pianos Become the Teeth completely mellow out, sacrificing their classic post-hardcore tendencies for a smoother, more thoughtful sound.

Do not be quick to label this record as “stripped down” because that would be ignoring the rich, full production done by the much sought-after Will Yip.

The band continues to make use of their entire musical arsenal, just from a different angle. Listeners can still find subtle moments of heaviness — like the chorus of “Lesions” for example, they’re disguised behind Kyle Durfey’s soaringly resonant voice.

His vocals seem to be the centerpiece of the record, adding another layer of melody on top of the clean guitars.

The song “Repine” is a favorite, standing out for its memorable opening riff before the song gradually rises, never repeating that opening statement. This track would be perfect as the cathartic closer of one of their live performances.

Similar to the other bands they’re associated with — Touche Amore, La Dispute, Dads — Pianos Become the Teeth are highly receptive to the idea of maturing their sound as they themselves mature. They recognize that they cannot scream forever and would rather explore fresh ideas.

Personally, I would have liked if they approached “Keep You” as more of a transitional record, approaching elements of their heavier sound with a greater emphasis on pacing, buildup and melody.

Songs such as “Old Jaw” and “Say Nothing” draw from distinct post-rock influences, yet do not hit hard enough at their respective climaxes.

I was left unsatisfied, feeling like the band could have gone slightly farther. Juxtaposing their beautifully-crafted, soft verses with moments of pure sonic intensity and heaviness would have made for a much more interesting listen.

Instead, Pianos Become the Teeth are following are precedent already set by a band like Moving Mountains on their self-titled release last year.

“Keep You” is appropriate for a tranquil, reflective walk on a crisp Autumn morning. Listeners may not be immediately hooked by the tracks and will return mostly for their soothing quality.

I was tempted to write this album off as generic after the first listen but after subsequent listens, the band’s blending of post-rock into their sound helps the album stand out slightly.

Pianos Become the Teeth is on the verge of a North American tour with Circa Survive and Title Fight.


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