Hands Like Houses - Ground Dweller
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Record Label: Rise Records
I’m a pretty big fan of bagels. Not many breakfast foods are quicker to make and tastier to eat. Simply pop one in the toaster and load on some cream cheese. That’s the thing, though…to a certain extent, bagels are just flying saucers of bread meant to transport cream cheese into my mouth. Having the correct amount of cream cheese is crucial, so when I get a container of the stuff, I know I usually have to ration it out over the course of a dozen or so bagels. Having too much cream cheese can honestly ruin your morning and set you up for a horrible, unproductive, disastrous day. I would never, say, purchase twelve cartons of cream cheese and use a whole tub of the stuff on each bagel.
Hands Like Houses have way too much cream cheese on Ground Dweller. It seems like a good thing at first, but it quickly becomes tiresome. The band’s Rise Records debut feels cramped. Between high-pitched vocals, guitars that alternate between spacey and chunky, electronic sounds, keyboards, random bells, choruses that try their best to be infectious and breakdowns that try their best to be hard-hitting, listeners might not be able to help feeling a bit claustrophobic.
Now while that cluster of descriptions might cause you to file Hands Like Houses into your “pre-WTF signings Rise Records” folder, you shouldn’t dismiss Ground Dweller just yet. There is a lot of promise here, but a sensory overload stops this record from being good or even listenable, really. The four-minute opening “Antarctica” will tell you right away whether you’re going to enjoy Ground Dweller or not. More or less every ounce of Hands Like Houses’ aural assault is thrown into the track, and it’s not bad…but it would be a lot better if the gameplan changed at some point.
The following 10 tracks are essentially the same unsuccessful formula punched into production that is far too poppy and overwhelming. The high-pitched vocals, reminiscent of Ground Dwellers’ two main guest vocalists – Jonny Craig and Tyler Carter both appear on “Lion Skin” – are something that you’ll have trouble adjusting to on repeated listens. In fact, you won’t want to adjust. You’ll want to play another album. With the repetitiveness of the musical formula and the tiresome overproduction on the already borderline vocals, Ground Dweller is more aptly relegated to the “so close, but so far away” folder. Fans of this debut would be fans of less organized versions of Chiodos, Emarosa or Sleeping With Sirens. So basically…there is definitely a significant enough demographic that is enjoying this album, which is good for Hands Like Houses, because I want to see them release another record.
There is talent in Hands Like Houses, and with talent comes great responsibility…I mean, an exponential room to grow. The band should perhaps make a list of musical sounds it can explore on its next record – there are many – and try to distribute those endeavors over the course of 10 songs instead of dumping them all into one song and writing 10 clones of it. Personally, I think it would be cool if the band took a more post-rock feel with dark undertones and eliminated the electronic aspects. They have the ability to do that. They also have the ability to turn into a regrettable metalcore-ish electronic-based group.
Pay attention to Hands Like Houses, because with the correct producer and some guidance in the songwriting process, the band’s next release could be surprising. They just have to dump the disheveled and clustered writing approach, and realize the best things are served in moderation. I still need a little bagel with my cream cheese.
They're about a 6.5 to me, maybe a 7. I've actually listened through it a few times and do enjoy it. There's absolutely nothing new here, but I think they do what they do well. I'd much rather see this stuff trend than screamer/singer combos.
i personally really like this album. while i agree that some of the songs can sound a little similar, i don't think that detracts from how good the songs are on their own. the acoustic ep they're doing should serve to prove that. also, the vocals are presented differently than jonny craig's typically are. there's a lot to their sound, but it's not a bad thing. if you're actually listening to the album, it makes sense and everything has its place.
That's the problem with just about anything produced by Cameron Mizell. Every track on every album by every band is treated identically and just about everything produced by him bleeds together the way this album does. It isn't necessarily the band's fault; look at tracks by bands like Memphis May Fire or For All Those Sleeping before Mizell got his hands on them, it's a totally different, cleaner sound. Mizell's production is interesting and definitely unique, but it definitely has a tendency to really tear apart a band's potential. Unless it's just an extraordinarily well-written album, which Ground Dweller isn't, really, the repetitive production at Chango Studios takes what would be a decent album and turns it into a 35-minute drone.
I haven't listened to the whole thing, but from what I've heard your review is pretty accurate. Maybe I've just gained a distaste for these bands.
Also bagels are one of the most overrated foods of all time.
I'll dismiss the score (if it means anything, I think it is worth more than a 5) and just focus on the content of your review. I completely agree with you that the record is over-produced, much in the same vein as Emarosa's first LP. It is a shame it is so cluttered, for the band is full of above-average musicians. Vocally, the singer could be reined in. These guys remind me of a more talented Emarosa from start to finish. There is a lot of potential here.