Having just been through a major transformation with Keep You, Pianos Become the Teeth have spent the past four years refining, rather than reinventing. No longer labouring under the weight of knowing their scream-less sound may drive away fans of their earlier material's shrieking chaos, the Baltimore band's fourth effort expands upon the sounds and sentiments that made their Epitaph debut such an intimate and quietly cathartic listen.
Here, Kyle Durfey's poetic prose places him among the most elegant and evocative lyricists of his class, while drummer David Haik draws from even deeper wells of creativity, his inventive and dexterous technique giving songs like "Fake Lightning" and "Bitter Red" a little groove without betraying the mood. "Charisma" charges forth with speed and persistence rarely (if ever) heard from the group; it's a song that's as forceful as it is hypnotizing. "Dry Spells" manages to capture feelings of both unrest and comfort, while "Bloody Sweet" carries near-constant tension, first stirring under the surface, then rising like a tidal wave, then threatening to crash over you — yet that thundering blow never comes. By now, Pianos have learned that careful restraint can be just as powerful as an explosive release.
Durfey has spilled plenty of ink about the painful death of his father, which played a critical role in making Pianos' second record, The Lack Long After, a heart-wrenching experience. While the wound isn't as raw, we know the scar is there — one that clearly pangs as he starts a family of his own — and it makes Wait for Love's final passage, "Blue," a real tear-jerker: "Would you believe it? / I'm a family man now / Here's your boy's boy / All blue-eyed and stubborn / I wonder, where's he get it all from? This sandy honey hair? / This hell of a temper? / I never knew mine / He'll never know his / But it's so good to see you again."
While most of the album doesn't pack the same emotional gut-punches as the band's earlier work, the writing captures life's more complicated truths, and in that way it's perhaps Durfey's most moving. "'We all agree he's got your eyes,'" he says in closing. "And I could die to see him sitting by your side."
Above all, Wait for Love shows that Pianos Become the Teeth have a firm grip on a sound and identity that's beautiful, poignant and wholly their own, and it shows that they can keep maturing without having to constantly recreate themselves. Whatever the mood, this album will wrap you up in its absorbing atmosphere and not let go till it's over. (Epitaph)