La Dispute — Rooms of the House Review

This review was originally published in the April 2014 issue of West Chester University’s student newspaper, The Quad.

La Dispute has always been a group that asks a lot of their listener. Jordan Dreyer’s post-hardcore quintet from Grand Rapids, Michigan has just released their third full length LP, a concept album entitled Rooms of the House, and I was admittedly very hesitant to select it for review. Having never been a big fan of La Dispute apart from acknowledging the band’s most popular singles such as “King Park” and “Such Small Hands”, I wasn’t sure that I was worthy of reviewing an album from a band with such a passionate and dedicated fan base, and thought that maybe the job was better left to someone else. Nevertheless, the aura that surrounds the band enticed me to give Rooms of the House my best, and I hope that I can write a review worthy of an album so deeply written and thought out that I have yet to fully comprehend Dreyer’s lyrical complexities and the band’s descriptive instrumentation. Rooms of the House is a beautiful concept that is portrayed through storytelling composition at it’s finest.

Upon a first spin, listeners are very likely to be confused with the album’s story. Rooms of the House is a spiderweb of sorts, cross-referencing it’s major themes and subtle nuances among it’s eleven tracks through major events or just simple words such as “furniture” and “glass”. The tale is one that I still have yet to completely wrap my head around, but upon the fourth listen I have come to the realization that this is a story that doesn’t necessarily make perfect sense, because it has to be interpreted differently by each listener. Rooms of the House is a masterful example of how music can be the perfect venue for telling such a story that has an open meaning, as lyrics are almost always written to be an open source of interpretation. There are certainly elements of the album that hit me on a personal level, as I’m sure different elements will reach other people in different ways. It would be a futile attempt to sit down and try to factually piece this tale together, because in my opinion even if it could be done it would defeat the purpose of the album. Rooms of the House is a storm that mercilessly tossed it’s wreckage about and leaves it up to the listener to piece it back together in the best way they personally see it.

Instrumentals are a touchy subject with a band such as La Dispute, as the way in which they portray their art relies so heavily on their lyrics, it can be easy to overshadow the album’s message with stuffy and overclouded composition. Kevin Whittemore and Chad Sterenberg’s guitar playing is catchy where it has to be and perfectly complements the intensity or subtlety that Dreyer is portraying in his vocals, while Adam Vass and Brad Vander Lugt do a great job keeping the album rhythmically grounded as music instead of just poetry paired with guitar riffs. While the album might contain some of La Dispute’s most poppy efforts yet, as exemplified in the almost radio friendly tracks, “For Mayor in Splitsville” and “Extraordinary Dinner Party”, Rooms of the House strikes a fluent balance between upbeat tunes and more taken aback pieces that entrance the listener into personal reflection. Such songs that struck me as introspective include the urgent “35”, the brutally honest “The Child We Lost 1963”, and the grandiose spoken word of the culminating track “Objects In Space”.

Rooms of the House is nothing less than an emotionally taxing journey of sorting through personal history, and the album is hard to listen to only because it invokes such introspection in it’s listener. La Dispute continues to ask for a lot from their audience, but with an album like Rooms of the House, you get back what you put in. A rewarding journey awaits those who are ready to take it, and it’s recommended to pack light and listen with an open mind, because you’re sure to find a lot to take back from an album as shamelessly written as Rooms of the House.

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