Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lifehouse grows up with Almería

album review

Good at making pop songs, and with their instrumental abilities proven, the band sets off in a more exciting direction

Band: Lifehouse
Album: Almería

After making it big with their debut album No Name Face (2000), Lifehouse have maintained a steady presence in the industry, releasing a number of subsequent albums and pleasing their steadfast fans with their melodic modern rock anthems. To others though, the band might feel unexciting and one dimensional, stuck making the same songs over and over, unwilling or unable to take risks and produce something different. Their latest album, Almería, just might be the group's response to those detractors.

There is no doubt about the fact that Lifehouse can make good pop songs, and tracks like 'Hanging by a Moment' emphatically attest to their musical abilities. But while they have made competent pop rock albums, their output hasn't always been as memorable as one would've hoped. With the new album, Lifehouse have taken a step towards showing their maturity and have tried a slightly different approach. There isn't a completely radical change, but overall you can notice a significant difference in sound as compared to their previous records.

With producer Jude Cole once again joining the group in the studio, Lifehouse have employed a more diverse sonic canvas for their sixth studio release. Vocalist Jason Wade continues to dole out relatable, introspective reflections over the course of the album's ten tracks, and vocally seems perhaps a tad more upbeat than he has been on earlier tunes.

Almería's cover gives a hint of the flavour that inspires some of its content - a tinge of country western vibes can be occasionally heard on some of the tracks, most notably on the catchy album opener 'Gotta Be Tonight', which is laced with western sounds. Similarly, the standout 'Right Back Home' which features Peter Frampton and Charles Jones, makes good use of both its collaborators and its southern rock feel.

Elsewhere, 'Nobody Listen' displays the strength of the band's instrumental abilities and Jason Wade's vocals, creating a pulsing song that is hard to resist. On other tracks, things still reside on the more subdued side of pop rock, and songs like the first single 'Between the Raindrops', a duet with pop singer Natasha Bedingfield, and the soothing, piano led album closer 'Aftermath', still hold the radio friendly appeal of their earlier material.

It's when they venture out of their comfort zone that the result is more exciting, which is what makes Almería one of their most interesting records in years. The band's evolution is obvious on songs like 'Right Back Home', and may even expand their appeal. That said, if you are a fan of their previous albums and were happy with the sound they had latched on to, then you won't necessarily like the change; you might find the expansion of their musical palette refreshing or you might find it less immediate than their earlier releases - it depends solely on your preferences. But from a neutral standpoint, something like this is a lot more interesting than, say, its predecessor Smoke & Mirrors (2010). For the most part, the experimentation attempted on Almería is effective and a step in the right direction. The change might not be drastic, but it is still appreciable, and it nicely complements their established persona. Overall, Almería is a promising set that is at its best when it's trying something different, and it shows that Lifehouse are not only willing to venture onto a more expansive musical landscape but also know how to pull it off.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 24th February, 2013

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