Album Review: A Place To Bury Strangers – “Transfixiation”

A Place To Bury Strangers
(Dead Oceans)

If I had synesthesia, A Place To Bury Strangers’ music would be that sort of black that only occurs when you haphazardly mix all of the paint colors in elementary art class (remember that ugly color?). You can tell there’s something else there, but all you see is dark, muddy black. That’s not to suggest that the band’s music has been inherently bad or haphazard, but there’s little question that the group is renown for turning up their amps past 11. Transfixiation is the sound of the band scaling things back a tad to allow for other colors to show. Sure, the band is still noisy as Hell (the album is, once again, mixed really loudly), but there are subtle and significant changes that have made what was once a neat shoegaze-y noise rock into something almost (dare I say it) really good.

For example, while I wouldn’t call these songs experimental or melodic, I would say there are experiments going on regarding the band’s sound, and it’s working. “Deeper” feels like the droning step-brother to Nine Inch Nails’ classic “Closer”, with its dark, punchy lyrics and electronic undercurrent. “Straight” has a grooving bass line that just won’t end, that tries its best to come through the feedback-laced guitars. “We’ve Come So Far” feels somewhat meta, with the band’s best chorus and another slithering bass line. The song sounds like A Place To Bury Strangers writing a The Black Keys song, in the best way possible.

Unfortunately, these moments of experimentation don’t feel like enough. While the album is a fairly breezy listen, aside from those few tracks, little actually stands out. Songs feel like a low tide, coming in and leaving little to no impression once they’re gone.  Also, as has been the band’s problem, the mix leaves a lot to be desired. By having this album come across so damn loud, you lose the fun that these musicians are clearly having. I’m sure these songs would be best experienced in a live setting, but hearing them in one loud, occasionally obnoxious boom of sound isn’t a good choice for the band. When all is said and done, this noisy group has certainly shown signs that it is willing to push its craft, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come for A Place To Bury Strangers. (Nicholas Senior)

Purchase Transfixiation here.

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