A Lot Like Birds are a technically gifted band; whether or not they're doing a good job of harnessing their gifts is another thing entirely. Kurt Travis being on vocals once again is certainly appealing, too; while he had a decent run with Dance Gavin Dance, it was apparent that he might be a better fit elsewhere and not long after leaving DGD, he joined ALLB for 2011's Conversation Piece. A Lot Like Birds are where he's placed, but maybe not quite found his voice, and there are a few kinks yet to be worked out as No Place feels like it's trying to find itself while attempting too much.
The wispy electronica opener "In Trances" quickly casts an ear on one of the record's biggest recurring problems: The overuse of spoken word. Skipping to "No Nature," there's an incoherently caustic nu-metal tone that comes off as disjointed. Later on, No Place builds on the intricate guitar work and flagship solos on which the band have previously cashed their checks, but those alone can't keep a whole album afloat. No Place leaves the listener wondering how well-rounded A Lot Like Birds are.
"No Nurture" reins in the expectations of old fans, with an acidic Saosin-esque effect. It's so sleek when it needs to be, yet rabid when necessary. As opposed to the previous tracks, stuck like splints which make Travis' unit sound like a mere shell of themselves, this track is an example of why A Lot Like Birds have immense potential. Around the ordained spoken word that doesn't work at all (it shows up again on "Myth of Lasting Sympathy"), there is a lot of dated material and influence from their previous work to stick to and enjoy. "Connector" tries to breach the rush and pace of the record with a slower take before chaos ensues, with a lot of Dance Gavin Dance-esque sounds and mixed vocals. It does come off as one of the strongholds.
Some bands end up coming off too flushed as they try way too hard for frenzied antics. They see making the record as a product, and keeping that vision on the end-product, they lose sight of the process as an art form. There are samples of this on No Place, but spots of hope are prevalent on tunes like "Hand Over Mouth Over and Over" as it's catchy and connecting, modeling itself after progressive post-hardcore. While some of the record sounds off and unbalanced, here it starts off as a calm stream before the typical sound fans love comes in - that deluge of solos, screamo and eclectic ravaging guitars heightening to the end.
The ever-catchy "Kuroi Ledge" helps stamps itself as a tentpole of the ten-tracker, built on well-timed percussion interfacing with the typical guitar structures from Micheal Franzino and Ben Wiacek. This is the former's brainchild and he laces so much showmanship into A Lot Like Birds. The duo have a tendency to blend a wide array of genres, from ambient soundscapes to aggressive punk-fueled anthems to unpredictable prog-rock freakouts but in shaping their music, they should realize that they can't always aim for flawlessness or try too hard. As a result, parts of No Place musically reclusive a bit and with some tracks being drawn out way too long here, they alienate the listener a bit.
The band have a good dynamic and with some fine-tuning, I can see them becoming better. If they do this and maintain consistency, that momentum will propel A Lot Like Birds' essence. They make beautifully turbulent music, but it's about getting the formula right and achieving that balance on an album. When they map this out and realize which strengths they should be emphasizing, I think they'll be something that the mainstream or underground will be proud to boast about.