La Dispute – Rooms of the House

written by: March 12, 2014
Album-art-for-Rooms-of-the-House-by-La-Dispute Release Date: March 18, 2014


La Dispute has embarked on a new artistic venture, this time stepping back from the broad subject matter of 2011’s Wildlife and focusing on aspects of everyday life.

The Grand Rapids, Mich. five-piece is known for the stories it tells, the raw emotion it employs, and the groundbreaking musicality that always accompanies its poetic singer Jordan Dreyer. Rooms of the House, which sheds light on crumbling relationships and the sentimental connection attached to objects from the past, is no exception to this trend.

In order to get into the mindset that accompanies this experience, the band holed up in a secluded cabin in Michigan for a month to focus on writing, also cutting ties with long-time label No Sleep Records to start its own label, Better Living.

So with the freedom of independence and a unique idea, La Dispute set out to convey its vision.

Starting off with the tragic tale of a wife and family separated from their husband and father during the infamous 1956 tornadoes in Hudsonville, Mich., Rooms of the House crashes down with the band’s characteristic vigor.

The song, titled “HUDSONVILLE MI 1956,” paints vivid pictures through lyrical and musical imagery, shifting between robust and toned-down instrumentals as the scene changes from mid-storm action to fits of worry.

The album opener introduces one of many personal stories and gives the overarching theme of the release with the lyric, “There is history in the rooms of the house.”

Much of the album continues the same way, reaching back to the power of La Dispute’s debut LP Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair while incorporating the real-world storytelling elements of Wildlife.

Heavy-hitting first single “Stay Happy There” finds Dreyer longing for reconciliation with a love that is failing, conveying that hopeless feeling through hectic instrumentals and yearning lyrics. He screams, “But doesn’t it seem a bit wasteful to you/To throw away all of the time we spent/Perfecting our love in close quarters and confines?” The narrator imagines the turmoil around them in images that are revisited throughout the album, like the reoccurring gesture of placing coffee on the stove or the storm touching down in Hudsonville.

“First Reactions After Falling Through the Ice” has the same brawny feel musically and has an equally heart-breaking story, where the character desperately falls through the ice over a frozen lake in an attempt to awaken the feelings of his lover, making her contemplate how she would react if he died.

La Dispute does an amazing job of creating these contagious worlds that place the listener in the middle of it all, forcing them to live in the emotions of the characters.

This is thanks to the genius of the instrumentalists as well as Dreyer, including guitarists Chad Morgan-Sterenberg and Kevin Whittemore, bassist Adam Vass, and drummer Brad Vander Lugt. The band’s intense, quick pace contributes to the unrefined passion of the songs, and its ability to abruptly shift gears to match the lyrics reinforces the setting of the stories.

Even though most of the album goes along the same post-hardcore style, the best songs on Rooms of the House are the novel mellow ones, namely “Woman (in mirror)” and “Woman (reading).” These liken more to the La Dispute’s early experimental, poetry-driven EPs Here, Hear. I, II & III.

“Woman (in mirror)” is the one of the most beautiful songs the band has released to date, stripping down to soft guitars and subtle drums to accompany Dreyer’s clean, melodic vocals, while “Woman (reading)” has the best of both worlds as it starts much the same and ends on an epic crescendo into the hardcore style the band is known for.

In the last song, “Objects in Space,” the mood regresses to a lost, melancholy hum.  The calming song depicts dozens of objects and their sentimental value as the narrator, pondering his past, uses them to create a monument of his life that moves throughout the rooms of his house, eventually being stored away in boxes. Dreyer epitomizes the restlessness of the scene by stating, in an apathetic tone, “And I sat there for hours, in the living room first/Then in the dining room, moving things around/Picking things up and seeing where they took me.”

La Dispute has created yet another masterpiece with Rooms of the House. Through the emotional stories it tells and the wide range of feelings it perfectly represents, the pictures it paints and the ingenious relationship between poetry and music, La Dispute’s members prove once again that they are proper artists in every sense of the word.

La Dispute – Rooms of the House tracklist:

  1. “HUDSONVILLE MI 1956”
  2. “First Reactions After Falling Through the Ice”
  3. “Woman (in mirror)”
  4. “SCENES FROM HIGHWAYS 1981-2009”
  5. “For Mayer in Splitsville”
  6. “35”
  7. “Stay Happy There”
  8. “THE CHILD WE LOST 1963”
  9. “Woman (reading)”
  10. “Extraordinary Dinner Party”
  11. “Objects in Space”