In the pantheon of spoken word acts, Listener stand tall as a truly unique sounding band. ‘Being Empty : Being Filled’ is their fourth release, and quite unpredictably it decides to show a side of the band that no longer depends on vocalist Dan Smith’s verbose performances. Instead, it embraces the strengths of the other members of the band and redefines their sound in an almost post-rock way.
They’ve been going since the early 2000’s and have a long list of indie and emo projects under their belt already, but on this outing Listener decide to go harder than ever. The guitars are louder and fuzzier, the drumming is hectic, and Smith’s delivery is astonishingly powerful. The vocal performance can be quite challenging to get a handle on with his abstract and expressive delivery, but it’s emotionally efficient, bolstering some of the albums’ best moments.
And there are plenty of moments to choose from. Opening track ‘Pent Up Genes’ features one of the most epic points on the album, when the song flips from a dark guitar rhythm into a glorious trumpet finale to close it out. ‘There’s Money In The Walls’ is an anthem dedicated to the man who invented the Diesel engine, using his story to create imagery around dealing with extreme emotional separation. It gradually rises in intensity, reaching its climax with the poetic chanting of “When you don’t go on, your song lives on.”
Lyrically, ‘Being Empty : Being Filled’ can be a demanding listen, especially when they are buried in overdriven guitars or crashing drum sections. Penultimate track, ‘Manhattan Projects’ is a fine example of this. However, it’s still a rewarding release with a lot of intricate details to be picked up on with every listen.
‘Being Empty : Being Filled’ by Listener is released February 2nd on Sounds Of Subterrania.
Words by Sam Seaton.