Review: La Dispute

Artist: La Dispute
Album: Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega and Altair

Listen to it here

La Dispute is a progressive hardcore, ambient band based out of Grand Rapids Michigan. They released Somewhere At the Bottom of the River in November, 2008 but recently released a benefit EP during December, 2009. The band is currently planning to tour the United States from March through May, record in the later part of March, and is also working on a European tour.

Sound / Musicianship

Most music that falls anywhere near the genre hardcore is not my cup of tea. The growling and breeing and constant chug patterns annoy and bore me and I have nothing else to say about them. However, while La Dispute appears to draw a heavy amount of influence from the hardcore genre, they excel past it by incorporating many other feels and styles while avoiding the repetitive cliches that are usually found with many hardcore bands.

The overall sound of this album blows me away. The very start of the album with “Such Small Hands” doesn’t start with cutthroat beats or heavy hitting guitars; it starts slowly, building up from a clean guitar and then cutting out to a fade right at the end. Both this fade and the shortness of the song (second shortest on the album) leave the listener wanting more right away. And more is definitely given.

From there on, La Dispute tackles the listener with a barrage of sound and does not give up until the end. However, while the album puts a lot of focus on developing heavy, intricate feels, nearly every song contains a break to less chaotic style with ambient, clean guitars and a slower pace. While many musicians are able to do such a thing, La Dispute does it in respect to the lyrics and how the song is progressing as a story. Each transition appears to be very well thought out and sets the listener up for a very emotional listen.

The thought that goes into simply the structure of the songs begins to show the musicianship that the band has. The songs are complex, switching from one style to another, emphasizing certain sections and feelings, all while maintaining a solid musical background. The guitarists work very well together with maintaining a balance with one another. There are times when both are playing the same part, others when a lead part is very clearly featured, and even other times when there is only one guitarist is playing. “Andria” and “Said the King to the River” both come to mind as great examples of the guitar balance. How the guitar lines come together is overall very well thought out and I am very impressed with how the guitars come together to create the melodies and backgrounds of the songs. The drums and bass are also very consistent with holding the base of the songs, and no part of the album seems to go off time or lose the beat. If listening carefully, some parts of the album explore different time signatures with “New Storms For Old Lovers” starting off in 3/4 and almost taking a waltz feel at times, and parts of “The Last Lost Continent” going into even different feels.

I usually do not have much to say about vocals or lyrics, but both of those things strike me as unique in this band. As mentioned, the songs all flow like stories and have certain feelings and emotions attached to each section. What really emphasizes these emotions is the vocals and the lyrics. The vocalist goes from roaring highs, to soft spoken word passages and the amount of dynamics that are portrayed throughout the album really set the album up to be so unique. The lyrics themselves fit the highs and lows of the vocals and songs. While many of the lyrics can come off as personal experiences or even story-telling of something else, the listener is able to relate overall to what is being said.

With all these compliments, there are some noticeable things about the album that I do not personally enjoy. While this band exceeds most hardcore bands I listen to, there are still some generic riffs and melodies that come up throughout the songs that don’t come off as strong as others. “Damaged Goods” and “Then Again, Maybe You Were Right” come off as the most strong examples of this. However, these lacking parts can mostly be looked over as the rest of the album seems to compensate.

Quality / Originality

The quality of this level is high. The band took its time in the studio and with mixing and mastering, and the final product is something for the band to be proud of. All the instruments come out great, and in particular, the guitar tracks were put together very well and extremely well balanced simply on a production level. Everything comes through as it should.

There are not many other bands that sound anything close like La Dispute. The music, vocals, and overall feel would be recognizable to me anywhere and the band is obviously on the track to something great. While parts of the songs could be split up and found through many other bands, what makes La Dispute great is that they have taken the best aspects of so many styles and put them together with amazing dynamics to create a very well developed and original album.

Overall Impression

This record is very solid and one my new favorites. I’ve been listening to La Dispute for only two months now, but I keep finding myself coming back them. The songs are catchy and intricate, the lyrics deep and powerful and just so many aspects of this CD are worth listening to. I would highly recommend listening to this album if you are interested in listening to anything that is able to have raging highs and emotional lows. Even if you don’t particularly like La Dispute, any person should be able to respect the music they are making.

-Ryan

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One Response to “Review: La Dispute”

  1. Actually they sound a lot like mewithoutYou’s first 3 albums….so much so that I can’t bear to listen to them because the singer is ripping off Aaron Weiss’ vocal and lyrical style so shamelessly that I’m embarrassed for him (the La Dispute singer). I know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and everyone borrows from their influences, but this is approaching plagiarism. Everything from the flow of his words to his inflections and dynamics to his usage of words and metaphors to his incessant lamenting of a lost relationship is a direct rip-off of what Aaron was doing almost a decade ago. Listen to A–>B: Life to know what I mean. I’ll admit this band has talent, and this guy’s voice is actually stronger and he has a more brutal scream, and their music is more technical and precise than mewithoutYou ever was, but it just doesn’t have the same soul and sounds like a glossy more “genrefied” copy of a truly unique band that until now didn’t have any similar sounding peers. These guys might have promise in my opinion if this singer would find his own voice and personality instead of copying someone else. Although this has been happening all throughout the history of rock and he is certainly not the first, nor is it an unpardonable sin. Some people will prefer this band to mwY and I’m trying not to have a problem with that. It bothers me a little though that people are calling this “unique” and “original”, but I’ll chalk that up to ignorance because mewithoutYou is not as well known as they should be.

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