For the better part of the 2010’s, it’s been a apparent that Pianos Become the Teeth are a special band. Their particular blend of lyricism, coupled with their ebb-and-flow instrumental intensity has earned them a place in the hearts of emo and hardcore fans alike. In 2009, the band’s first full-length Old Pride introduced Pianos as students of 90’s screamo, quickly followed by 2011’s The Lack Long After, which was masterclass in Melodic Hardcore. Their previous full-length, 2014’s Keep You traded in the strained yelps and anger for a more reserved sound. The post-rock influences that had been peppered throughout the band’s catalog were on full display, with the melodic, sung vocals taking center stage for the first time. A change in sound like this was considered a huge risk in “the scene” at this time, and it payed off fantastically. So now in 2018, we’ve been gifted with another LP from the Baltimore, MD band, one where they double down on the things that made Keep You their greatest record, and continue to experiment within the new sonic landscape they’ve carved out for themselves.
Looking at album art and music videos alone, one might think that Wait For Love is Pianos’ “Happy Record.” Lyricist and frontman Kyle Durfey has gotten married and had a child since we last heard from him. However, as is the case with most of the band’s discography, the seriousness of the emotions is always present. Even the happiest moments, such as proposing to a significant other or the birth of a child are filtered through the lens of angst and anxiety. The past two albums from this band have largely revolved around the passing of Durfey’s father, and now it seems that we have some semblance of peace in that storyline. So now, on Wait For Love’s closer, “Blue,” we see the roles reversed, with Durfey contemplating the balance between adopting the best parts of his father while not entirely becoming him. Shortly before the release of the album, the band shared a small batch of writings, with each paragraph providing context for each song on the record. It should be considered required reading before diving into the album and you can find it here.
Sonically, there’s an intensity on this album that the band held back on Keep You. Perhaps the best example of this return is the drumming, which plays a role second only to the vocals. Drummer David Haik seems to have been given free reign to experiment with his percussion and the result is a performance that not only keeps impeccable time, but also manages to emote, a characteristic rarely found on records in general, nevermind in the crowded alt-rock space of 2018. From the first hits of “Fake Lighting” it’s clear that vocals and lyrics aren’t the only things worth being poured over.
Pianos Become the Teeth’s guitar tones haven’t changed much since Keep You, but their ability to jump back and forth between intense, in your face overdrive and reverb-laden space-builders, has become a signature characteristic that would have been sorely missed otherwise. The basslines are predictably complementary to the percussion throughout the record, and thanks to the return of super-producer Will Yip, the entire record straddles the line between sleeker, cleaner production, and the harsher tones of the band’s older works.
It seemed clear three years ago that the screaming and intensity of previous Piano’s records was a thing of the past, and Wait For Love proves that it might just be the best thing that’s happened to this band. Durfey’s voice weaves in-between the guitars and drums like a pro, emoting better than he ever did previously on songs. Lead single “Charisma,” is possibly the only true “Love Song” the band has written. It feels triumphant to hear Durfey repeatedly sing “And what a way / you won me over” during the song’s chorus. Similarly, his opening line on “Fake Lighting” feels like a signal, calling on people to “come and celebrate / cut loose and shake.” Wait For Love is not about having come out on the other side of personal struggle to find pure happiness, it’s an album about self-evaluation and searching to find the things that keep you moving forward through that struggle.