By Alyssa Buffenstein
Oct. 29 was a big night for Pianos Become the Teeth, as the band was celebrating the release of their third album. The Baltimore five-piece hit The Studio at Webster Hall for the second show of a five-city run, to celebrate “Keep You,” out via Epitaph.
Before the August premiere of “Repine,” the lead single off of “Keep You,” one might have called Pianos a screamo band. This author might have called them that, and lots of confused moms might have called them that, too. However, in August, it was revealed that the band’s newest effort would include no screaming at all – vocalist Kyle Durfey had swapped raw vocals and gritty growls for clean singing. The lack of screaming does not render Pianos unrecognizable – in fact, far from it.
Another thing you might have called the band based on their first two albums is melodic hardcore, a genre into which the new sound fits; at least, enough to make the third full-length cohere with previous efforts. “Keep You” is more than the melodic hardcore of Pianos’ friends and peers in Touché Amoré, La Dispute, Defeater, and Make Do and Mend.
“Keep You” is one long, slow build, creating bleak landscapes of sound with deeply soulful, ominously controlled vocals. The new style impresses on its own, but knowing what came before it adds an extra level of power: the band knows how to let the monster loose, but now they have to hold that intensity back.
Taking the stage to ambient noise under watery light and smoke, the band played through the new album’s first two songs. Despite the precise control felt in the songs, the audience still pined for a breakdown, and confusedly attempted to do what they used to do at Pianos’ shows – mosh.
It wasn’t until the third song, the opener off 2011’s “The Lack Long After,” that Durfey introduced the band, and fans could start throwing each other around.
The rest of the hour-long-plus-encore set consisted of a good mix of old and new, showing that Pianos isn’t abandoning anything with “Keep You.” Durfey’s voice, even on clean parts, often fell back into the comfort of emotional screaming. This didn’t translate into a fault, though, instead, it highlighted the continuity between the initially shockingly different “old” and “new” of Pianos Become the Teeth.
Durfey’s performance style was true to form, too. Generally involving stomping around the stage, using his lanky limbs and long hair as kind of terrifying head-banging accessories, his voice didn’t falter even as he monkey bar-ed overhead pipes to swing facedown onto the crowd.
Pianos Become the Teeth not only performed new songs, but christened them, ushering in a new era of the band that’s only on the incline. Between visceral physical responses from band and fans alike, and heavy, suspenseful new-school interludes to heavy, explosive old-school songs, only one word can fully sum up the experience: intensity.
Alyssa Buffenstein is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org