Album Review: ‘Unimagine’ by Hands Like Houses
The most cheerful song on the album is also one of its strengths. “This is happiness: to be everything at once. Be unblinded, be unlearned, be unbridled and unburned,” Woodley sings over an upbeat progression with Cooper’s guitar again lending a nice harmony in “No Parallels.” It’s perhaps no coincidence that this song is sandwiched in between the album’s most emotional song, the change-of-pace keyboard-driven “Oceandust” and one of the most frenetic tracks, “Fountainhead.” Hey, if they can find happiness amidst the chaos and uncertainty, perhaps it’s not impossible for us to follow suit.
Now, this isn’t to say the album isn’t without its faults. Woodley sounds to be at his strongest when he’s singing at higher octaves, as that’s when he really pushes his vocals. When he’s in the lower ranges, he’s much more timid. He doesn’t sound terrible by any means, but it just isn’t as powerful. Some of the tracks simply aren’t as strong as others, like “The House You Built,” which sounds eerily like a Panic! at the Disco song during the intro and verse.
It’s almost unfair. For bands who enjoyed success with their initial release, they can face a Catch-22 when it comes to writing the follow-up. If they stray too far from the formula that made them successful, they risk alienating the fans who loved their first work.
On the other hand, if they stick to the exact same plan, they take the chance of becoming known as formulaic, with every song sounding the same. The trick, then, is to approach the second album as a progression. This is what Unimagine is. There are certainly areas for improvement, but it’s impossible to deny they’ve made leaps and bounds in terms of talent and songwriting from Ground Dweller, which was an already impressive album. Fortunately, for fans of Hands Like Houses, Unimagine is a perfect milestone, a mile marker, even: not only to remind the listener of where they started, but also to show how far the band has come.
Unimagine gets a B+.
For fans of: Emarosa, Dance Gavin Dance, technical alternative without screaming
Strong tracks: Developments, A Tale of Outer Suburbia, No Parallels