Hands Like Houses – ‘Hands Like Houses’

By Gem Rogers

When Aussie quintet Hands Like Houses released fourth album ‘Anon.’ in 2018, the response from fans was, to put it mildly, a bit marmite. Considering the marked shift in sound that album represented, the reaction probably wasn’t too surprising; think of any release by a band who’ve made even minor steps away from their original style, and you’ll also find a swathe of disgruntled comments nestled among the positive feedback on YouTube and Facebook. For Hands Like Houses, their shift away from a technical, post-hardcore-influenced sound into more bluesy rock was influenced by the change in themselves – as people and musicians – over the eight years since 2012 debut ‘Ground Dweller’, and represented the beginning of a new era for the band.

To say that their new self-titled EP picks up where ‘Anon.’ left off doesn’t feel quite right. If standalone release ‘Headrush’, which made an appearance in March, felt like that album’s slightly psychedelic cousin, lead single ‘Space’ was the sibling who ran away in search of a better life. Soulful rhythms and gentle vocal harmonies took the place of the big, elaborate guitar riffs – yet every moment is still vivid, burning with a quiet energy that twists and writhes under the emotional frustration of the lyrics. For fans who were won over by the lyrical poetry of songs like ‘Introduced Species’ and ‘No Parallels’, rest assured – Hands Like Houses’ way with words is one thing that absolutely has not changed.

As with previous albums, these songs tackle subjects that could easily veer into the oppressively dark with a grounded, honest, and thoughtful approach, laying emotions out openly in a way that could easily others to do the same. In exposing the parts of ourselves that feel most vulnerable and unpredictable, we deepen our understanding of what makes us who we are – a sentiment that runs deep in the veins of this EP. From the feelings of belonging in ‘The Water’ to the deeprooted anxieties revealed in stunning closing track ‘Wired’ – easily one of the band’s best songs to date – this is a journey of self-exploration, set to music as warm and energising as the spring sunshine. Penultimate track ‘Stranger’ brings the focus around to the very modern topic of the way we live our lives alongside technology, and the ever present expectations on us and our time, with an upbeat, almost indie-pop vibe and a sleazy beat that feels fantastically playful (and maybe just a little tongue-in-cheek). There’s a confidence that confirms Hands Like Houses have found their new sonic home, and it’s a pure joy to hear.

In the end, it seems wholly fitting that this EP is self-titled; it’s a statement of who Hands Like Houses are, who they will be, and the path that led them here. Perhaps it won’t satisfy the most staunch ‘Ground Dweller’ fan, but it doesn’t really need to – the Hands Like Houses we’ve known all along are still there, they’re simply evolving, and this release is a clear demonstration of how much more they have to give. There is solace in these words for all of us still searching for ourselves in the chaos of life, beauty in each delicately woven strand of music – if this is the future of Hands Like Houses, then it’s a bright one indeed.

GEM ROGERS

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