Album Release Date: Released May 5th, 2017
Over the course of my lifetime I have observed one single fear that we all share. While your initial reaction was to shout out the fear of death as the one thing we all can’t seem to shake or move past, I argue that the largest fear we all share is that of change. We experience change in some fashion every day; some in small, subtle changes and some that become life-altering. Although we are all afraid of dying, I believe that a lifetime of fearing the unknown and to not be able to cope with the changes in our lives outweighs the certainty that we will all someday die. Death is inevitable while change fosters uncertainty; asking what will become of us next? To me, nothing speaks to the idea of uncertainty more than “DIVISI” by A Lot Like Birds.
“DIVISI” is the fourth full-length album by the Sacramento, California band A Lot Like Birds which consists of Cory Lockwood, Michael Franzino, Ben Wiacek, Matt Coate and Joseph Arrington. The word Divisi means a musical direction indicating that a section of players should be divided into two or more groups each playing a different part. The album title is perfectly fitting for the change in lineup the band experienced in February of 2016 when vocalist Kurt Travis departed from the band causing a division of two groups of musicians now playing different parts or a divisi. Personally, I am a fan of Kurt’s having first found him while he was with Five Minute Ride and following him throughout his career up to his recent project of Eternity Forever. Kurt’s stints with all of the bands and projects he has been a part of have been nothing short of spectacular pieces of art, and most notably his work with A Lot Like Birds. But nothing in life is ever certain and with his departure, A Lot Like Birds as a band had a ton of questions to answer for themselves. Do we replace Kurt and continue in the direction of our prior releases, do we go back to the sound we had before Kurt joined the band, do we change and adapt as a band so we can grow in a different direction. Of these questions, it became apparent with each new single released that the path the band chose was to grow in a different direction and it was this change in sound that has caused the general listening audience to pick up their pitch-forks.
On the beginning track Always Burning, Always Dark, “DIVISI” opens up with a simple question: “Don’t we all arrive at the same place where we began?”. I interpret this question not in the tone of death but rather in the tone of change. A Lot Like Birds has worked on building an audience, creating a sound, and crafting a vision for the band over a series of years and albums but now they find themselves right back at the start and wonder where to go from there. It is here, that the album careens into The Sound Of Us, a dark, haunting tale of being trapped and lost with no sense of direction. Silence overcoming thought, running from the evils that chase us, attempting escape but in the end just giving up. It is here that the band questions if the steps that are being placed in front of them are in fact the right steps to be walking. This song sets the tone and mood for the remainder of the album and is a great place to begin your journey through “DIVISI”. The band has released a video for The Sound Of Us which can be viewed below. The video is part one of the epic travels of a man who has never belonged, always felt out of place, and is tempted to explore a life that was never meant for him to see or experience.
Track three of the album gives us the beautiful and serene For Shelley (Unheard). This track was the first officially released single from “DIVISI” and it was the first taste of what to expect from A Lot Like Birds post-Kurt. While miles away from their previous sound, I will personally say that I absolutely loved this song upon first listening. Every time I listen to this song I am greeted with shivers down my spine and my hair marching up. It is simply one of the most passionate songs I have ever heard. If you as a listener are able to clear your mind of past expectations and accept the path that A Lot Like Birds is taking you on, then the pureness of this song will shine through. While you are watching the video for this song below, I highly recommend that you read through the video description where Cory Lockwood describes what the song is about and the feelings he has been working through with the passing of his mother just one year prior. Truthfully, after reading what Cory wrote in the description of For Shelley (Unheard), the shift in sound that the band presents in “DIVISI” made perfect sense to me.
Track four off of the album is titled Trace The Lines and opens with vocals by Conor Murphy of the band Foxing. If you get through “DIVISI” and are searching for more music cut from the same cloth, I recommend checking out Foxing. Trace The Lines is about coming to the realization that through your whole life you have taken influence and pieces from your surroundings to the point you can no longer recognize yourself anymore. Once you stop and have taken time to reflect on your life and the path you took to get to this moment, are you able to trace the lines back to determine where it all went wrong. It is in the end where you can begin to take account of the things that matter most and it is now in this sense of peace and wonder where one can accept regret and push forward. A Lot Like Birds has released a video for this track which is part two and continues from where the The Sound Of Us video leaves off.
While there are many more tracks to this album past the four discussed above, I have approached a fork in the road. On my left, I personally believe that the opening four tracks are more than enough for the listener of “DIVISI” to be able to build a constructive opinion for their own and I can accept that no amount of convincing on my part can persuade you to move forward with this album if you haven’t found any appreciation in “DIVISI” up to this point. On my right, I realize that I will be seeing A Lot Like Birds perform live with their new material and direction in a few days and would like to use that forum to discuss the remaining tracks from “DIVISI” as they are performed live. So it is here that I will venture down the road to my right alone and will continue to explore what is “DIVISI” with hopes of expanding even my own admiration for this amazing piece of art. If you have walked with me to this point, I leave you with one piece of advice, “don’t fear change, rather embrace it whole-heartedly and open-minded, as it is this change that leads us to grow in ways that even we could never have imagined for ourselves.”
You can catch A Lot Like Birds this spring on their national headlining tour in support of “DIVISI” with Household (Blood & Ink Records), Hearts Like Lions (Tooth & Nail Records), and fellow label-mates Owel (Equal Vision Records). We will be at the 5/20/2017 stop in Berwyn, Illinois so watch for a review of that show as well as the Gideon “Cold” tour and the Affiance Farewell tour.
*Disclaimer* We do not own the rights to any images or videos within this review. All images and videos belong to the bands, artists, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, and record labels involved with the images and videos.