Album Review: Thrice—’Palms’
Posted: by The Editor
Thrice’s 10th album in 20 years is yet another testament to their continued progression. While many of their early contemporaries have either disbanded or suffered personnel turnover, Thrice have maintained both their original lineup and their commitment to never making the same album twice. Their music isn’t easy to classify, as they’ve been blending genres since their fittingly titled 2001 debut, Identity Crisis. For Thrice, being unclassified is their paramount virtue.
Palms, their latest release and first for Epitaph Records, is one of their riskiest yet, much like Foxing’s latest opus, Nearer My God. It’s clear from the synth opening of “Only Us” that Thrice are going to be utilizing unfamiliar sounds on this one. One standout track, “Just Breathe,” is their first song that features female vocals on it. Emma Ruth Rundle’s hauntingly beautiful voice adds another layer to the magnificently melodic song. A harp even appears during the peak part of “Blood On Blood.” The song is full of emotion as it deals with the heinousness of people killing one another in war. The song itself is a callback to a line from “Don’t Tell and We Won’t Ask,” from their essential album The Artist In The Ambulance (2003); “Don’t we all know we bleed the same red blood?”
“The Dark” features fan-submitted vocals that close with an anthemic harmonization of, “And we’re not gonna sit in the dark anymore / No, we’re not gonna sit in the dark anymore.” It’s a payoff The payoff that’s bound to resonate live with a crowd of thousands singing along, much like a song off their previous release, “The Long Defeat.”
In fact, the whole album has a distinct live feel to it. To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere (2016) was their triumphant return after a three-year hiatus. It was beautifully mixed and featured a polished production. On Palms, there’s a human characteristic to the production. It’s apparent in the subtleties that really shine with repeated listens. Vulnerable notes like fingers on strings and delicate keys on a piano take the performance out of the studio. There are even moments, particularly at the end of tracks and during the finale in especially, where they let notes and instruments ring out instead of hastily fading into the next track.
Similar to other albums from Thrice, each member has a spotlight moment. Singer and guitarist Dustin Kensrue shows off his vocal range in the piano-driven “Everything Belongs.” Lead guitarist Teppei Teranishi is the driving force for many tracks, most specifically on “The Grey” and “Hold Up a Light.” Ed Breckenridge, a well-respected bassist, really steals the show here, from the grooving “My Soul” to the incredible conclusion of “A Branch In the River;” a track that will satisfy fans of Thrice’s older, heavier material. The song ends with the rhythm section (brothers Ed and Riley Breckenridge) creating an astonishingly odd breakdown in a seemingly complicated time signature. The Breckenridge brothers can be soothing, too. In the album’s last track “Beyond The Pines,” their restraint serves to compliment the intricate guitar work and vocal prowess.
Thrice’s subject matter on their albums is always sociopolitical, philosophical, and spiritual in nature. Palms is no different despite it being darker and rawer musically. There’s an underlying theme of acceptance and understanding. An acknowledgement and coming to terms with doubt, and the notion that not everything is simply black and white. Palms is a satisfying album for a Thrice lovers and casual fans alike, and it’s a rewarding listen for the uninitiated who are willing to take the experimental ride.
Disappointing / Average / Good / Great/ Phenomenal
Tyler Holland | @InTyler_WeTrust
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