Wait for Love champions life, finding new ways of musically and lyrically articulating what it means to be human.
Alongside bands like La Dispute and Touché Amore, Pianos Become the Teeth have become mainstays in the emo and post-hardcore scenes over the past decade. Across the span of three full-length albums, the Maryland-based quintet blended the profoundly personal and emotional lyrics of early screamo with a dual musical emphasis on distorted intensity and post-rock melody. Each album took a measured step in musical and personal development, moving from screaming to singing and from singer Kyle Durfey’s lyrical despair to his unflinching honesty about coming to terms with loss and trauma. But with their fourth full-length, Wait for Love, the band hasn’t taken just a step. They’ve taken a giant leap. Wait for Love leaps toward life and love with a dexterous musicality propelled by innovative and energetic rhythms and Durfey’s most polished singing to date.
On 2014’s Keep You, Durfey’s switch from screaming to singing added a new wrinkle to the band’s sonic repertoire, allowing them to comb through melodic realms that were more suitable for the album’s mournful mood. Though unrefined and often wavering, his voice fit the album’s emotional shakiness. Wait for Love, however, showcases Durfey in full control of his voice and of himself as a newly married man and father. With a sophisticated falsetto vocal run in the first line of opener “Fake Lighting,” Durfey firmly announces his growth as a singer and as a person: “Come and celebrate, cut loose and shake.” Gone are the vocal quivers and solemn introspection, and in are the more relaxed perspectives the band has of itself.
“Cutting loose” also accurately describes drummer David Haik throughout the album. While Haik remained in a strict time-keeping role on Keep You, he brandishes inventive rhythms throughout Wait for Love, invigorating songs like “Charisma,” “Bitter Red,” and “Bloody Sweet” with an around-the-kit drumming style, equal parts heavy and dancey. Haik’s most notable moment occurs on “Dry Spells,” when he thrashes around his toms and cymbals to innervate the rising guitar arpeggios with an unrelenting energy. Throughout the album, Haik is given the freedom to effectively punctuate the album’s post-rock swells and walls of distortion with intricate and forceful rhythms.
Haik and Durfey’s newfound freedom does not, however, carry the band away from their former seriousness and honesty. Rather, it finds a new motif. Instead of focusing on loss and trauma with a gritty resolution, the band takes serious issues of intimacy, offering forthright glimpses into the realities of romantic and sexual relationships. Songs such as “Bay of Dreams” and “Bloody Sweet” map what it means to be truly vulnerable with a partner, with Durfey’s lyrics staying largely self-referential, if not also more economical and suggestive than his prior work.
Durfey and the band’s growth emerge most clearly on closer “Blue,” a track that offers a heart-wrenching tale about being a father. On 2010’s Old Pride, Durfey had given a courageous and unyielding account of his father’s struggles with multiple sclerosis, and two years later, he drank to his father’s memory on “Liquid Courage.” But rather than fixating on generational trauma, Durfey addresses his father by singing about his own new position: “Would you believe it?/ I’m a family man now.” He croons tenderly and poignantly throughout the song, but his lyrics become most emotionally provoking in the song’s final lines: “We all agree he’s got your eyes/ After all this time/ We all agree he’s got your eyes/ In a certain light/ We all agree he’s got your eyes/ And I could die/ To see him sitting by your side.”
Altogether, Wait for Love marks a significant moment in the band’s musical and personal maturation. The rhythms and melodies are sophisticated, and the lyrics probe Durfey’s new life, but with the same emotional perceptiveness as before. Whereas previous Pianos Become the Teeth releases relied on gut-wrenching sounds and narratives, Wait for Love champions life, finding new ways of musically and lyrically articulating what it means to be human and to experience intimacy.