Pianos Become The Teeth - Keep You (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Pianos Become The Teeth

Keep You (2014)

Epitaph Records

Kyle Durfey's always written gut-wrenching and emotionally turbulent songs to cope with his father's death. He's given me some of my most connective tunes to date. In essence, Pianos Become The Teeth have been therapy sessions not only for their lead but for fans like me as well. 2011's The Lack Long After was the record that got me through severe depression over the last few years and it still holds up as one of the best post-hardcore/screamo records I've ever heard -- which had me tentative about the shift in direction that Keep You takes. As it completely drifts into more melodic, piano-driven territory, devoid of any screams whatsoever, PBTT continue to weave a musical magic -- one that erases all apprehension and concerns. You're left feeling that they've transposed something onto you that they never did before -- a sense of relief and being content.

From the first few tracks that PBTT teased off Keep You, it became evident that the record would be hard to gauge. Why? Well, because there was a personal connection to Durfey's hoarse screams which felt like an avenue for you to vent your frustrations into. As his anxious screams and strong sense of urgency give way to a calmer, relaxed and contemplative disposition on the mic, it throws back to when Geoff Rickly got in tune with Thursday's instruments. Only this time, Durfey does it better. Tracks like "Ripple Water Shine" and "April" float off shimmering guitars which lend to the sense of recovery, which feels like the main theme here. The guitars dodge heavier outlooks but still feel ambitious. They provide more-than-ample structure for his swoon-y words. Feels like new ground for sure and that's how it should be.

That's not to say that older themes don't pop up. Loved ones gone too soon and the surreal feeling of being alone are addressed as expected but as Durfey's voice carries on, you sense that he's absolved himself of any blame. He's admitted that his marriage has played a big role in this and as David Haik's drums beat at an uncharacteristically low tempo throughout, you appreciate how settled the vibe is. Tracks like "Lesion" attempt to buck this trend but these old-school post-hardcore shakeups still can't offset the reconciliation and acceptance at hand. Will Yip's production really bridges the gap between oldies like "I'll Get By" and "Hiding" which were clear hints where PBTT wanted to go. More so, Yip's vision paves the way for the lulls of PBTT to make inroads. This doesn't register as something you'd ever expect from the band yet track by track, you appreciate more and more what they conceive.

"Repine" continues the battle of letting go the past as it meshes into guitars that feel eerily similar to "I'll Get By." This brings out another hidden gem of realization on the album -- a lot of the musical framework's quite similar to The Lack Long After and Old Pride which Durfey's angst masked in the past. This time around, the instrumentation's more exposed and as minimal as they feel on first listen, the arrangement grows by the song. You pick up on finger-picked intricacies which add so much value to the heavy lyrical content at hand. All add up for a great story. As "Say Nothing" rounds up the album, PBTT build to the point where you expect the burst of screams and noise but it just doesn't happen. Instead, it's an extension of all that precedes. Rippling emo, gripping harmonies and another fine, albeit left-field, addition to PBTT's catalog.