Parts & Labor Receivers

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Styles: indie rock of the more anthemic variety
Others: Dan Friel, Times New Viking

On previous releases, Parts & Labor tended to force extremely noisy, squalling sounds into the context of enthusiastic, unhesitating post-hardcore anthems, with a focus on that word, “anthems.” Vocals on every track were relentlessly melodic, emphasizing huge choruses and extreme gestures. The overall sound was an electrifying, caffeine-drenched headlong rush, but the vocals were just too strident, too emphatic.

On their new release, which features new members on drums and guitar, Parts & Labor tone down the vocals immensely. Their melodic lines remain catchy and their choruses still "anthemic," but vocalist Dan Friel has dropped his voice about an octave and lost that strained quality in the process. And the band has followed suit: tempos have dropped dramatically; songs are looser and longer; the production no longer keeps everything in the red; and Friel’s squealing, high-frequency homemade keyboards don’t attack the listener like they did before.

Instead, Receivers takes the band’s sound, stretches it out, and lets it breathe, moving far from their hardcore roots. With their lengthy running times and slow-build crescendos, many of these tracks beg the “epic” tag -- dig that high vocal note after a six-minute build on “The Ceasing Now.” But with the relaxed pace at which these tracks progress, the band occasionally runs the risk of never gathering the energy needed to justify the track length or that high note.

While the album remains completely listenable, there’s always a sense that it could go further, that it could hit a more striking and resonant note. This is mostly because the band keeps dropping hints of what that might sound like, such as the near-Celtic synth stomp that opens “Wedding in a Wasteland.” During the album's recording process, the band requested that fans send in audio recordings in response to prompts, like “What do you parents sound like?” or “What are you afraid of?” Although the liner notes claim that every response received was included, you’d be hard-pressed to find them. The recordings are not integrated into the album in any significantly structural way; they're instead primarily utilized as indistinct sonic filigree between tracks.

In the end, Parts & Labor have created a nice bit of earnest, heartfelt indie rock with Receivers, separating themselves from the pack a bit through the occasionally chugging rhythm sections and, of course, Friel’s electronics. However, the album doesn’t quite reach the level of sonic innovation to completely justify their move to a more accessible sound. It never runs the risk of causing irritation, but one might wish it did. Parts & Labor are exciting, both on a gut level and an aesthetic one, but the shift to a more sedate sound hasn’t pushed them in directions that emphasize this enough, at least so far.

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