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Album Review: Palms by Thrice

Thrice release their tenth album Palms on 14th September via Epitaph. At the end of summer 2017, not long after Thrice had finished up a national tour, singer Dustin Kensrue woke up in the middle of the night and found himself fixated on the mental image of an open hand—a visual that instantly became his touchstone in the writing of the album.

“I got up and started listing off all the things an open palm represented, especially as opposed to the idea of a closed hand or a fist,” says Kensrue, who co-founded Thrice with guitarist Teppei Teranishi, bassist Eddie Breckenridge, and drummer Riley Breckenridge in 1998. “That became the basis of the record: that feeling of being open, whether it’s open to mystery or to receive things or to give. The album came from a place of trying to combat the hate and bigotry we’re seeing in the world right now, but attempting to do that in a way that’s nondivisive.”

With that openness in mind Thrice took a free-form and fluid approach the music on Palms, resulting in their most expansive work to date, encompassing everything from viscerally charged post-hardcore to piano-driven balladry. To carve out that eclectic sound, Thrice enlisted trusted producer Eric Palmquist for the recording of the percussion and vocal tracks, and self-produced all of the guitar parts on Palms. “When we track our own stuff we tend to be far less neurotic about getting every note perfect,” says Kensrue. “It’s more about getting the right emotion out of the performance, so that it connects on a deeper level.”

Opener ‘Only Us’ explores textures of synths before the heavy riffs come in to create a new layer of sound for the band. ‘The Grey’ is more of a traditional Thrice song with their post-hardcore roots coming to the fore in what Kensrue describes as “the frustration that comes from straining within some kind of system, and the feeling of freedom that comes from moving into a new way of understanding things.”

‘The Dark’ is a brooding, slower track showing another side to the band. A solid few openers, but it’s on ‘Just Breathe’ and ‘Everything Belongs’ that the album really finds its feet. The former takes a gradual, toned down post-hardcore approach letting small nuances come to the fore. It’s an intricate track full of ambition. The latter takes that ambition and strips it down to a piano-led ballad that focuses on how “there’s a way to view the world where everyone does belong and fits together quite beautifully,” according to Kensrue. ‘My Soul’ lets Kensrue’s vocal flourish before ‘A Branch In The River’ ramps things up with a churning bassline building the track towards a post-hardcore climax. It’s a track that grows on you and becomes one of the best on the album.

‘Hold Up A Light’ is the archetypal Thrice song. You’ll probably be able to predict how it goes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t excellent. Thunderous post-hardcore riffs, throbbing bass and that sumptuous vocal – it does everything it should. ‘Blood on Blood’ is the weakest track on the album but that’s soon forgotten about when closer, ‘Beyond The Pines’ comes in. Delicate guitar parts, gentle percussion and starkly delivered lyrics inspired by a passage from “The Great Wagon” by 13th century poet Rumi: Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing/there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

A solid album, 20 years later Thrice have still got it.

AD Rating 7/10

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