Once upon a time, Pianos Become the Teeth was a screamo band. Ever since 2014’s Keep You though, they’ve adapted to a more post-rock-inspired sound, with vocalist Kyle Durfey delivering most of his lyrics in a steady baritone. Nevertheless, there’s bound to be some pocket of old school fans waiting for Pianos to go back to their earlier sound. There was an air of anticipation when it was announced that they were working with producer Kevin Bernsten, who they worked with on those first two records.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Drift, the newest offering from the Baltimore quintet, is another disappointment to the screamo caucus. Luckily, that’s not bad news at all really, as Drift finds the group playing with more intricacy and nuance than ever before.
Drift is perhaps Pianos’ quietest release. Many of the tracks are built on intertwining clean guitars underpinned by soft drum parts (a surprise for anyone who’s seen David Haik in action live). Durfey’s voice stays in his lower register for most of the album. And on my first listen, I was honestly a little disappointed that I didn’t catch any scream-along lines that marked my favorite songs on Keep You and Wait For Love, such as the “you’re about what you’re about what you’re about” that always strangles me on “Old Jaw.”
But the more time I spend with this record, the less I miss those cathartic moments. Often when a band is said to be maturing, it’s a delicate way of saying that they’ve gotten boring. But Pianos’ maturity is anything but. These are some of the most captivating arrangements they’ve made, and they’re augmented by studio manipulation that the press release tells me was created in real-time with a vintage Echoplex tape delay.
This isn’t to say there are no moments of bombast. “Genevieve” is swollen with an urgent energy. “Hate Chase” is the closest thing to an overt punk song they’ve written in a decade (it doesn’t even break the two minute mark). Even the slowburner “Buckley” combusts toward the end, with even the tempo increasing with the volume. There are even some screams buried in the mix as the song explodes.
I realize that might sound like it’s a consolation. It’s not. The quieter parts of the record don’t need to come with an apology. Anybody who wants them to remake The Lack Long After or even Keep You can just listen to those records. Drift is another step in the band’s ever-evolving career, embracing atmosphere over volume, and with stunning results. Even if your friend from college who introduced them to you won’t stop moaning about how they wish they’d make another Old Pride.
Drift is out August 26 through Epitaph Records.