A Place To Bury Strangers - Pinned
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A Place to Bury Strangers have always made the most of change, and Pinned is no exception. During the years between this album and 2015's Transfixiation, the band dealt with challenges, both welcome and not: Oliver Ackermann and Dion Lunadon added drummer/vocalist Lia Simone Braswell to the fold, and Death by Audio, Ackermann's creative space and home, closed. Fortunately, the band use both situations as opportunities to reignite their creativity while remaining true to the stylish desperation at the heart of their music. Braswell is the best thing to happen to A Place to Bury Strangers in some time. On the ghost-riding opener "Never Coming Back," she matches Ackermann and Lunadon's intensity with massive toms that suggest post-apocalyptic surf music and singing that sheds some light on the band's frequently black-on-black sound. Ackermann and Braswell's vocal interplay defines Pinned, whether they're trading vocals on "There's Only One of Us" or she provides a haunting backdrop for his world-weary sneer on "Situations Changes." Elsewhere, highlights like "Frustrated Operator" and "Act Your Age" evoke the electrifying duets of X and the Kills. Braswell also adds a counterpoint to some of the more macho aspects of A Place to Bury Strangers' sound; without her spooky background vocals, "Too Tough to Kill" would be too predictably thrashy. This willingness to experiment extends to poetic touches such as the way the beautifully spiraling guitars succumb to distortion on "Was It Electric" -- even after four albums filled with pedal-stomping, they've never sounded quite like this before. Though Pinned is a few decibels quieter than Transfixiation, in its own way, it's just as intense. Ackermann wrote much of the album in his apartment, alone with a drum machine, and the feeling of close quarters remains in moments such as "Execution" and "I Know I've Done Bad Things," both of which still feel insular even as the guitars go into the red. Equally raw and sleek, Pinned is one of the band's most cohesive albums -- even if change is a constant in A Place to Bury Strangers' world, so is the quality of their music.