Sound: The first song I heard by La Dispute was showed to me by a friend, called "Such Small Hands", and is the opening track of this CD. The song mixed a very mellow, slightly-eerie sounding, delay-laden guitar with some simple, albeit effective, drums and increasingly powerful vocals, constantly sounding coarse in comparison to the music but get increasingly more rough, louder, and more painful as the song went on. This was all over in a little more than a minute.
Intrigued, I headed over to the band's website and began to listen to some more. By the end of the night, I had ordered two copies of "Somewhere at the Bottom...", one digital for immediate listening pleasure and a physical copy to add to the collection.
The majority of the tracks shine with originality and diversity, mixing different instrumental focal-points and balance, encompassing everything from blazingly-fast guitar riffs to Fugazi-esque basslines.
The CD loosely tells the story of an old Indian folktale, hence the odd title, but at the same time feels very modern and is easy to connect to and relate with. The fast-tempo guitar work of "Said the King to the River" nicely compliments the frantic and panic-stricken vocals (as described by a friend: "It sounds like he's freaking out"). Every track is very-well put together and there's a great deal of variety on the album, from utter chaos and pain of "New Storms for Older Lovers" to the long, drawn-out epic, "The Last Lost Continent." Tracks like "Damaged Goods" display a powerful focus on vocals, constantly cutting out the guitars just to have the shouts clearly heard over just drums and bass (That's not to say that the solo/outro piece is lacking in substance- quite the opposite). Slower, mellow tracks like "Fall Down, Never Get Back Up Again" do a nice job of breaking up the chaos of the rest of the album and display the diversity in the bands' capabilities.
One suggestion would be to listen to the album in pieces, as extensive listening causes one to grow weary of the band's sound, especially the singer's voice. Songs such as "Last Blues for Bloody Knuckles" and "Bury your Flame", which feature some of the best instrumental work on the album, start to lose their impact if listened to extensively.
Also, one (very) minor point to mention, this album seems to actually have more focus than their previous work, as some of their older songs were really out-there and experimental, whereas this all manages to at least stay within one genre, more or less.
If listened to in the right amounts, "Somewhere at the Bottom.." is one of the best post-hardcore albums in recent years. The powerful lyrics, amazing vocal talent, and clever guitar and bass work will leave a lasting impression that all future bands will be measured up to. // 9
Lyrics: A lot of bands are praised for one member. For Guns N' Roses, it's Slash. Mention Led Zeppelin and people gush about Jimmy Page. And everyone knows Rush's Geddy Lee. While each member of La Dispute brings forth amazing qualities to the band and each member is respectable in their own right, vocalist Jordan Dreyer steals the show.
The lyrics are absolutely mind-blowing, filled with meaning and deep connotations. There's no forced rhyme-scheme, no awkward phrases, nothing out of place. Every word is carefully chosen, every line packs an emotional punch. Dreyer's delivery is top-notch, managing to carry the music and bring such originality and flavor to each of the songs that would otherwise be missing.
The music sounds angry, the vocals will reflect that. The music will swing over towards depression, towards hope, towards sorrow- and the lyrics will equally reflect it, step by step, surpassing the music in terms of emotional influences in some cases, even. There's not a bad thing to say here. // 10
Overall Impression: "Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair" is the best album I've experienced this year and has easily found its way onto my Top-5 list and, more importantly, into a permanent nook in my heart. Every song speaks out to the soul, being felt throughout the entire body not just as music, but as a true experience of life. I've already purchased two copies of this masterpiece and wouldn't blink about purchasing it again if ever misplaced. Qualms of slight repetition and change in pace aside, this is simply one hell of an album and an emotional ride like no other. Every song, every second, is highly recommended. La Dispute has shown us what music was meant for. // 10