September 10, 2018 Thrice – Palms (Album Review)
Open your mind and embrace the possibilities that lie outside the black and white. Open your arms in a warm, unifying embrace. Open your ears in the name of Palms, Thrice’s tenth full-length album as well as their Epitaph Records debut. It arrives Friday, September 14, 2018, and it will not disappoint!
Thrice are a band who, like a great surfer, have ridden many waves throughout their twenty-year career. Formed while still in high school – in Orange County, California in 1998 – by 2000, they were delivering their debut, Identity Crisis. However, it was the band’s third release, 2003’s The Artist in the Ambulance, that landed them on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart (“All That’s Left,” “Stare at the Sun”) and placed the spotlight onto their undeniable talents. In 2005, Vheissu continued to solidify their stellar musical reputation, along with five more albums over the next eleven years – ranging from 2007’s conceptual offering, The Alchemy Index Vols. I & II, to 2016’s more politically-minded To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere. There was a hiatus in there, as well as a pair of live albums, several EPs, a bunch of killer cover songs, and a glorious gift for always delivering top-notch music.
On their Epitaph Records debut, Thrice – Vocalist Dustin Kensrue, Guitarist Teppei Teranishi, Bassist Eddie Breckenridge, and Drummer Riley Breckenridge – present a truly weighty and impressive 10-song collection that is, as they say, all killer and no filler. Intriguingly, the quartet opted to split production on Palms – placing vocal and percussion duties into the capable hands of Eric Palmquist (Mute Math, Bad Suns), producing all the guitars themselves – and handing over mixing to the Grammy Award-winning John Congleton (Lucy Dacus, St. Vincent).
Palms begins with ‘80s Moog synths pulsing alongside Kensrue’s strong vocals as the band launch into an impassioned reminder that “There is no them, there is only us” – the human race. No matter how different you wish to make yourself, we are all one and the same. As with all that Thrice touches, there is an intensity and a sincere grit to “Only Us,” an overwhelming depth of sound and fevered passion in their artistic intent. Say what you like about this band, but you cannot question their sincerity for their craft!
Next, they explode into romper-stomper “The Grey,” an embrace of that grey area that is beyond the black-and-white of society’s clear divides. Punctuated guitar plays the metronome for “The Dark,” where Kensrue feverishly rallies the troops to stand up and fight – for ourselves, for our world that is worth fighting for. Interestingly, those troops are composed of a choir of over a thousand voices, fans from around the globe who submitted clips of themselves online to be included in the song.
On “Just Breathe,” they mix sounds together to create a kind of lackadaisical rocker that features the beautifully delicate background vocals of Singer-Songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle. Then, it all comes full-circle with gorgeously twinkling piano work that sits alongside Kensrue’s stunning vocals on “Everything Belongs,” a gorgeous respite from the rocking that allows the band to revel in one truly sparkling epiphany.
With our souls replenished, born anew, we begin the meandering journey into “My Soul.” Here, the quartet produce a sultry, bluesy affair that floats across the eardrums like clouds in an autumn sky, before they amp it back up and get carried away for the gritty rocker “A Branch In the River.” There’s something sludgy, dirty and syrupy thick in the layers of the infectious “Hold Up A Light,” something that will shake your hips and make the live crowds bang their heads. Glittering acoustics begin “Blood On Blood,” a fine wine splashing down the palate with its deliciously-aged layers of sound. Ultimately, they go for the big finish with the cinematic sweep of “Beyond The Pines,” bluesy guitars sparkling like diamonds alongside Kensrue’s philosophical rasps. Break out your lighters and cellphones, and sway your heads, my friends: Thrice have returned!
Some bands enjoy storied reputations that leave many of us boggled, while other bands blindly cross genres and fandoms to continually turn heads with their technical proficiency and sincere know-how. File Thrice in this latter category, as everything they touch is deserving of golden status. Palms, therefore, is no different. There is a spiritual vulnerability to the collection and to Thrice, as well; a band who possess the ability to lay it all on the line lyrically while layering extravagant musicianship across their field of vibrantly unifying grey.
There is no insincere wagon-jumping or grossly obvious anthem-authoring, no, Palms is simply what it is: a clean-cut gaze into the spirit of one band, wishing to pass along a message of unity – in the name of humanity, in the name of music. In short, exactly because it’s not trying to do so, Palms makes music exciting and inspiring again! For these reasons, CrypticRock give Thrice’s Palms 5 of 5 stars.