Stressful day? The energy in Hands Like Houses’ album, Unimagine, evanesces the monkey clinging to your back that is throwing off the joy of the day. Vocalist Trenton Woodley even describes the album’s theme of happiness as,
“…not the hollow, temporary happiness that is based on unrealistic expectations, but contentment out of understanding our present and being genuinely appreciative of real, worthwhile life.”
The upbeat and soothing instrumentals work skillfully with the heartfelt lyrical delivery to melt away the troubles of the day. “Developments” feels like a peaceful twilight on the lake: butterflies and moths fluttering lackadaisical paths in a wistful wind, the white moon dancing on the reflective water’s surface, and the tranquil sounds of tree leaves mingling with living creatures at peace. Fittingly, the song is about reflection on perseverance attained through patience to cut out the unnecessary, until all that is left is a memory and light.
“…I can’t explain enough, and I won’t let it last the night. I’ll show you that the image is still there unseen. It’s darkest before the light, if we shut our eyes to see, the things that we, have lost inside the lines between. Between the black and white, where everything goes grey, and everything’s unsaid, undone, and the negative bleeds away, to reveal the memory, that we’ve waited so long for…”
Mid way through the album the intensity drops out and soothing instrumentals and singing serenade the listener into relaxation with “A Tale of Outer Suburbia”. The lyrics possess well thought out and powerful imagery of a lonely dying bear on the outskirts of a forest being destroyed to build another yet another city. This bear’s final anxieties as his life’s flame extinguishes, become a perfect analogy for our daily anxieties as we witness and attempt to adapt to change,
“I’ve lost heart, the forest’s scarred. I hear no birds, just TVs and cars. I’ve lost faith, the forest’s changed. My stomach’s empty, I’m feeling faint. I’ve lost sight, the forest’s died. The brambles are bare, and I’m hollow inside. Each breath rattles like dice in my chest, each breath gambled, unwinding till death.”
When you are feeling down and out, like this displaced bear, just sit down, close your eyes, and listen to “No Parallels”. The upbeat rhythm, playful guitar, reassuring keyboards, and Mr. Woodley’s ability to sound as if he is singing directly for you, lifting you up and reminds you that even though corporate owned politicians have us,
“…branded and we’re burdened from the moment we are born. We’re domestic and we’re discontent, and we’re grinding our gums raw. Forget your feet and where they fall, life your head and carry on.”
My personal favorite, “Wisteria”, is an unexpected and genius lyrical metaphor of a plant’s environment, structure, and life to describe moving passed dark days by using them to persevere and grow stronger. The keyboard work plays an integral part in this song, with a video game like quality, building up the tension for the big payoffs. It has a soft and graceful chiming behind the vocals only, before the rest of the band empowers the chorus with more presence,
“…in tender ground, as bare as birth, a shoot emerged from beneath the earth. Mary, Mary, tell me how your garden grows. Tell me what it takes to come alive, to see what you have sown…”
The flow of this song works swimmingly with the lyrics, making the listener sense all the twists and bends in the branches, roots, and leaves of the plant-simulated song. And sticking to the happiness theme, the song lifts all the seedling listeners up,
“…I’ve been lying here too long, the branches pushing me apart where weakness showed, but then September swept the overcast aside, dusted off the winter’s curse, and she cut me through like knives. She whistled proudly her season’s song and showed me that I was alive all along.”
I can’t say enough about this band in a constrained word count; when I listen, I envision The Beatles reborn, adapted to the angrier climate of the present generation. Everyone NEEDS this album.