Pianos Become the Teeth are a band that has had their career marked by changes in sound, both great and more subtle. Beginning their days combining post-rock and screamo (Maryland’s answer to envy, as I liked to think about them), the band eventually went from shrinking the post-rock influences in their music to dropping their screamed vocals entirely on 2014’s Keep You, confidently taking on a new role as a modern alt-rock band. Now, their fifth full-length release, Drift showcases the subtler shifts the band has taken over the course of their musical journey.
“Turn the lights off when I’m still in the room / I’m only bright next to you” are the lines vocalist Kyle Durfey utters to kick this album off, and this seems to be the mood that defines Drift. While Pianos have never been a band to shy away from writing about dark topics, much of the lyrics on this album take an introspective look at a person confronting their own shortcomings and lack of self-assuredness, standing in stark contrast to 2018’s more anthemic Wait for Love. The music here reflects this darker tone as well, eschewing much of the grandeur of past albums for a more stark, dour tone, almost taking on a noir quality at times as on advance single “Skiv.” This newfound embrace of sparseness in the band’s music also has seemingly allowed them to add in more new and unique sounds to their fold, ironically making this the most adventurous Pianos album to date. From the rondo choir of Durfey’s looped vocals as background accent to the saxophone accentuating the smoky vibes of “Skiv” to the ambient-leaning outro to “Mouth,” and more subtle incorporation of new textures and tones in the instruments present, the necessity of pairing back the music to match the darker lyrics seems to have given the band room to be at their most playful. At the very least, I am assuming the lyrics are what influenced the music; it would be interesting to know which was the chicken and which was the egg in this scenario.
It’s very clear that Drift represents another shift in Pianos Become the Teeth’s career, yet this shift is one less overt, yet perhaps most interesting to me. This isn’t a case where I would argue it sounds like they became a different band between albums, but in many ways it seems like that may have been exactly what happened. Drift may not have been the step I expected from the band, but it is an album that intrigues me deeply, and that is enough to keep me listening again and again.
Drift is available now on Epitaph Records. For more information on Pianos Become the Teeth, visit their official website.