At some point in life, everyone eventually catches themselves staring dramatically out the window of a vehicle onto tranquil, gray skies and wondering what it would be like if there life had been a movie. These are times of quiet reflection, as they think of all who have come and gone, those who they have hurt, and those who they have been hurt by. But of course, no movie is ever worthwhile without a powerful score to back it, and if you have found yourself doing this, and think you may eventually do it again, then it is of the utmost importance that Loma Prieta’s newest album, Self Portrait, be your stellar new soundtrack.
Loma Prieta have always been masters of creating vivid, mental images through their chaotic, sometimes peaceful blend of post rock and screamo and, in this regard, Self Portrait proves to be no different. However, to say that Self Portrait is merely a carbon copy of past albums such as Last Cities or I.V. would be a grave mistake. Where those albums still held to a much stricter core sound of a slightly more polished attack on the work of bands such as Welcome To The Plague Year or Funeral Diner, Self Portrait shows Loma Prieta finally coming into a sound that is distinctly and completely their own. The melodies are much more well defined, becoming focal points of songs instead of simply acting as a relief from frenzied screamo attacks.
This is not to say that Loma has fully moved away from their extreme elements, however. While this embrace of more melodic aspects adds a refreshing new element to the bands sound, it also helps to highlight and expand upon an area of it that has present from their earliest days. Loma Prieta has always shown a knack for lulling the listener into a state of perfect bliss before whipping out the panic attack inducing riffs, but with songs such as “Net Gain” and “Nostalgia”, they show that the two can sometimes can be one.
Classic Loma moments still do show up in abundance, however. On “Never Remember” the band starts off with a classic slow burner, post hardcore riff before bridging into a chorus that oddly brings to mind the work of noise punk act Perfect Pussy. Under all of this is another classic Loma feature; the absolutely breath taking drumming of Val Saucedo. Saucedo does a phenomenal job of writing constantly varied, interesting drum parts that display extreme technical prowess while never distracting from the song overall by being overly flashy. He is a gift to hear play, and is easily one of modern punk musics’ most talented drummers.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and so to, must Self Portrait. But that does not mean that it goes out with a whimper. In fact, it is hard to think of a more powerful ending track than “Satellite”, a song that starts sounding as if it belongs more on a dream pop or Arcade Fire LP then a screamo one. However, that relative ease does not last long as Loma Prieta crescendos the song into a dramatic, climactic chorus that roars through the listening device of choice, resonating to the very core. The song is a perfect closer as it samples all of the elements that now so help to define Loma Prieta’s sound, and offers a dramatic, angst ridden closer before evaporating into a wall of harsh noise in which the song itself is eventually buried in and forgotten.
With Self Portrait, Loma Prieta shows that they are not to be defined as simply screamo, or even post rock, or post hardcore, or really any genre. Their sonic palette has expanded, allowing them to create a record with the heavy emotional undertones and passion of past records while incorporating a new, more distinct use of melody, helping to provide a nice contrast to some of their darker, moodier work. However, that is not to say Self Portrait is without its flaws. While it may begin and end on a high note, exciting the listener at first, then smacking around their feelings as it fades out, the middle grows a little stale. Perhaps more listens are required, but tracks 6-8 seem a bit too formatted upon the initial few listens to really call this record flawless. Thankfully, this does not detract from the overall listen, and Self Portrait still remains a through and through strong listen, warranting repeated listens and extreme excitement for what is to come from Loma Prieta.
Loma Prieta’s Self Portrait gets…