Alibi V.26 No.23 • June 8-14, 2017 

Aural Fixation

A Beginning in an Ending

A Lot Like Birds recovers from loss

Sacramento-based post-hardcore band A Lot Like Birds' newest album DIVISI delves into loss of love—romantic and familial—in life and death. Being the first album produced by the group since 2013—and their first since Michael Littlefield and Kurt Travis left—listeners are transported to a slower, more gentle variant of the band. A Lot Like Birds gained many fans with their fast-paced, thrash-inducing melodies and harsh, high-pitched, aggressive vocals, but after recent personal tragedies they explored a more soothing and healing production in this project.

The introduction to this new direction begins with a haunting vocalization followed by lyrics saying “Don’t we all arrive at the same place where we began?” which is addressed further in the reversal of the backing vocals (taking you to the beginning of the vocals; clever, right?). The instruments slowly build with an echoing drum backed by said vocals layered with the instruments.

Following the scene set by the first song, the listener gains a sense of eerie unease from the slightly altered guitar melody and the addition of a quiet alarm followed by the drums building to an apex of heartbreak made danceable. The guitar is nearly lost in the consonance of lead singer Cory Lockwood's dismal melodic lyrics, “Like ice on passing comets we move coldly, soundless, through it all but in the wordless space between us there is something like a song/ Each note exists within the silence, our hearts were moving it along/ You sing the melody so perfect; I can only get it wrong.”

The harmonizing continues into a seemingly chaotic environment that turns into a quick, bouncy, soulful and heavy rhythm. The lyrics reflect the loss of love between two longtime lovers—further into the song, the instruments accompanying the vocals begin a powerful pluperfect movement building up then coming apart with power chords (which are still thrash-inducing, just so you know).

The album ranges from pleasantly orchestral to heavy rock to funky and soulful. The backing vocals for Lockwood are provided by Matt Coate (vocals and bass guitar) and Michael Franzino (guitar, synth, piano, background vocals and auxiliary percussion) whose voices are a needed delicate, guiding effort necessary for the relief of the often found anguish of DIVISI. The occasional harsher vocals from Lockwood complement the bleakness found in the melody but—unlike his previous work—they are otherwise subdued, forgiving and tender.

The last song, though similar to the first, sounds defeated. The song builds up giving into the anxiety of existence and death with a quick, severe and urgent agency, “But I know/ We were made to be unmade, tied with strings designed to fray, I just want our knot together, it’s holding now but not forever/ Someone or thing has got to pay/ It’s given too much to take away/ I just want a legacy/ I just want it all to never fade/ Don’t we all arrive at the same place where we began?” The last line of the song repeats for the remainder with a delicate abated drop to a single, soprano voice continuing the phrase.

This album is for the brokenhearted looking for some hope. It's meant to heal while maintaining an honest truth about the difficulties of moving past the terrible obstacles that life throws our way. DIVISI is a gorgeous project that is a notable move away from what A Lot Like Birds is known for—and just in time, in my book—the world seems bleak and graceless nowadays, but with this, I'm given some small hope of relief on the horizon.

A Lot Like Birds: “The Sound of Us”