ALBUM REVIEW: Hands Like Houses – ‘Anon’
Australian alternative rock band Hands Like Houses have been pushing boundaries and challenging musical norms since their emergence in 2008. Their fourth studio album ‘Anon’ continues to do this, whilst also unmasking an abundance of inner and societal battles with the most powerful tool they have: music.
The opening track off ‘Anon’, “Kingdom Come” immediately demands attention from the audience. The thunderous instrumentals are apparent from the very first second of the song, and are quickly accompanied by the captivating vocals of Trenton Woodley. Although there is no climatic point of the track, I believe “Kingdom Come” demonstrates one of the many talents of Hands Like Houses. Despite the climatic let down, the perfect pairing of instrumentals and vocals create intrigue and a sense of anticipation within the listener. “Kingdom Come” is just the first stop in the exciting journey found within ‘Anon’ and was the perfect selection as a beginning track.
Track two revisits the second single released from ‘Anon’, “Monster”. Partnered with a vibrant music video, “Monster” is anything but scary. The effortless verses are a true showcase of the way Hands Like Houses can create catchy and refreshing beats by using a variety of influences from other genres. In comparison to “Kingdom Come”, “Monster” climaxes to a powerful chorus. The way the track makes you feel is practically indescribable- but in the best way possible. Even as the track slows down, it still remains powerful, allowing the audience to firmly believe in what the band is trying to say. Due to its empowering nature, “Monster” was selected as the theme song for the WWE Super Show-Down held in Melbourne this October. If that is not an indication of the robustness of the song, what is? “Monster” is a clear standout from ‘Anon’ and plays a significant role in the popularity of the album.
Track three, “Sick”, slows down and darkens the tone of the album dramatically. However, this proves to be positive step. The decreased volume of the instruments and the rawness of Woodley’s vocals express that Hands Like Houses can do so much more than just create catchy beats, but create meaningful lyrical content too. Even after the build up at the chorus, the vocals remain prominent. “My reflection must be some body else, ’cause I don’t recognise myself.” The track uncovers themes of giving up yourself for someone else, and how you can often lose yourself and become someone you never thought you would be. I believe “Sick” is an important song from ‘Anon’ and should be more widely recognised as a song created by Hands Like Houses.
Track four is yet another familiar track from ‘Anon’. “Overthinking” was the first single released off the album by Hands Like Houses earlier in the year. Despite its success, the song remains true to the band and incorporates both heavy and soft elements; a combination which the band seems to ace. As a single, “Overthinking” serves its purpose. As a new fan, this song was different and drew me to the rest of the album which I had not yet listened to. “Overthinking” is a perfect example of how success can still be reached in songs that are not just pop. This track acts as a doorway for curious audiences to discover the world of ‘Anon’, created by Hands Like Houses.
Track five, “Through Glass” features a stripped back rawness in the vocals, a common feature within songs by Hands Like Houses. Although this track takes an opposite turn to the heavier songs off the album, “Through Glass” is still trademark Hands Like Houses. “You light up the dark in me.” The contrasting lyrics reflect the entirety of the song which the band created. Even though the beat picks up to seem upbeat and cheerful, the lyrics remain twisted and reminiscent of the past. Only few bands are able to pull off this juxtaposition and with their track “Through Glass”, Hands Like Houses have proved they are within this tight-knit group.
Upon the closure of track five, we are immediately met with the beginning of “Half-Hearted”. This track ever so slightly picks up the intensity, but still reaches a climatic peak needed to prevent the song from becoming boring or familiar. The underlying eeriness found in the chorus changes the pace and perspective of the song considerably. The diversity found within the song shows just why Hands Like Houses should be considered alternative royalty. “Half-Hearted” is anything but a one-dimensional song and should be celebrated for its musical diversity.
The eerie vibes continue on to track seven, “No Man’s Land”. As seen in previous tracks, the rawness of Woodley’s vocals accompanied by the captivating and strategic sounds of the rest of the band members create a perfect partnership. Whilst it sounds like a strange comparison, the vocals of “No Man’s Land” heavily reminded me of Matty Healy, making me almost do a double-take to see what band I was listening to! The reason for these vocals being so prominent is due to the lyrical content within the song. “Everything is changing but we are, we are the same.” This particular line really resonated with me as a first time listener. Even though this lyric may just follow the story of “No Man’s Land”, I feel it could also be adapted to the band. After their emergence in 2008, the sound and influences of Hands Like Houses have changed in a vast majority of ways. However, the band still wishes to stay true to themselves and carry out messages and morals which are important to them. “No Man’s Land” is a personal favourite track off ‘Anon”.
“Black” is the eighth track found on ‘Anon’. Considering the past two tracks, “Black” certainly holds the spookiest vibes. The vocals on this track are far deeper and darker, and are paired alongside guitars, bass and drums with evident metalcore influences. This certain influence gave Woodley his first chance to unleash is roars on ‘Anon’. “Black” solidifies how the influences used by Hands Like Houses create an album which is a mixed bag. This is not a negative thing. Songs that are scattered across multiple subgenres can be found in one place, performed by the same band. For this reason, Hands Like Houses should have a bigger reputation. “Black” is yet another personal favourite from ‘Anon’.
Track nine, “Tilt”, is a song high in popularity from ‘Anon’. The heavier elements found within “Black” stick around, and there is a large focus on guitar elements. The heavier instrumentals allow for Woodley to showcase a different and unique side of his voice; a voice which is fuelled with passion and belief in what he is preaching. The strong instrumentals seem to radiate the confidence found in the song “Tilt”. This song received a welcoming reaction from fans, and it is clear to see why. The incorporation of genres matched with the passion they bring to each song reflects classic Hands Like Houses. “Tilt” acts as a large reassurance to fans that Hands Like Houses will never stray from the path they created for themselves.
‘Anon’ comes to a conclusion with the track “Bad Dream.” Within the opening sounds, it is clear that “Bad Dream” is going to be an outstanding finish to an already exceptional album. The song radiates strong Muse vibes and incorporates elements of both technology and real instruments. The stripped back vocals are refreshing and show yet another layer of ‘Anon’. The fact that “Bad Dream” uses so many elements that were not previously used on the album makes it the perfect closing track. If for an unknown reason the listener was starting to lose interest, this song certainly brings it right back. “Bad Dreams” finalises the album on a positive note, and leaves much to be anticipated for Hands Like Houses’ upcoming records.
‘Anon’ by Hands Like Houses is a stellar demonstration of how bands can pick elements from other genres, and mash them together to create sounds which are true to them. Track after track, ‘Anon’ leaves the audience surprised and showcases the best of what the band has to offer. As a fellow Australian, I am proud to have such great talent representing us! Hands Like Houses hit the nail right on the head with ‘Anon’.
Written by Georgia Haskins
If you haven’t already listened, make sure to stream ‘Anon’ by Hands Like Houses below!