Kyle Durfey has molded Pianos Become The Teeth as a jarring, therapeutic outlet for dealing with his dad’s death. Tales of what could have been in Baltimore have long littered their aggressive, post-hardcore/screamo take on love, life and loss over the course of albums such as Old Pride and most notably, The Lack Long After. Those records set the bar so high for The Wave and a plethora of bands such as Xerxes, The Saddest Landscape, Caravels and Departures to measure up to. And as impressive as they all came, there’s only one champion and that belt belonged to PBTT in this genre. What Keep You represents however is a sonic shift that breathes in an air of letting go and one which finds Durfey happy with the present instead of looking back on the past. He’s cut ties with the pain and in doing so, there’s no screaming on the record. Just soft-spoken, melodic resonance.
The guitars shimmer and gloss over with amazing harmony throughout. They feel eclectic and at times, experimental, but then you figure out that the older albums contained similar arrangements. However, they weren’t recognisable back then because Durfey was spewing his hoarse screams over them. And remarkably so at that. Tracks like “Repine” and “Late Lives” swim much more easy and are low-tempo, guitar-intricate lullabies. This is a bold move and stark contrast for the band as it separates them totally from their old identity. Expect it to be polarising…in full. But what fans ought to look at is what Durfey’s lyrical disposition is. Not as much regret again. More along the lines of thankful. And he’s explicitly stated that his new life as a married man has helped shape this. Most tracks play off this finger-picking guitarwork with sleek drums from David Haik icing them but still, they feel well differentiated from each other.
Fans feared how the shift from Topshelf to Epitaph would impact but glad to say, all fears are allayed. Will Yip helps to keep you (no pun intended) emotionally tethered to one of the most classy and polished productions of 2014. “Say Nothing” as a closer takes some nostalgia to hardcore fans of PBTT (as a bonus) as it seems to be a continuation of “I’ll Be Damned” and “Hiding”. Teases screaming but just ballasts at mid-range. This trifecta is a great indication of where to ballpark this band now. Don’t think they’ll stay in this zone though.
They’re not about musical comfort zones or safety nets. Somehow, I see them mixing it up and evolving soon because in the sandbox of Durfey, he jams like Geoff Rickly does. Like Jordan Dreyer of La Dispute does. Like Touche Amore’s Jeremy Bolm does. Unpredictable and unafraid to take vulnerable risks. Keep You affirms why this band needs to be in your top 5 when 2014 ends. It’s the opposite end of the spectrum you’d peg them in but at day’s end, you can’t deny amazing music from a band that keeps setting their own standard so very high.