Lifehouse fans dropping a digital needle on the California quartet's sixth studio album may be surprised at the confluence of swirling musical influences on Almería.
Oh, there's still a good bit of stuff aimed squarely at the adult-contempo, soft-rock audience—think Switchfoot and The Fray—the kind of territory Lifehouse has staked out since its arrival in 2000. But there are also some unexpected detours. On these musical roads less travelled, the band invites some unlikely partners along for the ride, including British pop songstress Natasha Bedingfield and '70s guitar hero Peter Frampton. Songs blend Lifehouse's signature acoustic and piano style with genres as diverse as the blues and country.
"We all had this urgency in our gut that we couldn't even articulate," frontman Jason Wade said in an interview with Billboard. "We just knew we had to go back to the drawing board and try something new. We felt like our sound needed to evolve and to change. This album was very in-the-moment, not premeditated, just a lot of waiting around for moments to happen on their own instead of forcing something and trying to manipulate it. It was very freeing."
If the band's sound is evolving, however, one thing that's rock steady is a consistently positive outlook on the trials and tribulations everyone faces along life's bumpy, dusty roads.
Album opener "Gotta Be Tonight" counsels courage and perseverance as we all rocket down the road of life: "Gotta keep your head up and move along, move along/Gotta keep your head calm and carry on, carry on."
Lead single "Between the Raindrops" features Natasha Bedingfield and the band metaphorically singing about a couple dealing with life's difficulties. "Walking between the raindrops/Riding the aftershock with you," we hear in the chorus. Bedingfield's verse meditates on a woman's determination to stay with her man through thick and thin (and those raindrops): "When the walls come down/You'll know that I'm here to stay/There's nothing I would change/ … We're better than all right."
Several tracks ("Slow Motion," "Where I Come From," "Right Back Home") contrast feelings of aloneness and separation with the hope of being reunited with a cherished loved one. On "Where I Come From," we hear, "The stars light the road/That's bringing me back home/With beat-up dreams/Open eyes and broken wings/No matter how far/You're always on my mind/ … I feel so far away from home/Wherever you are is where I come from."
"Barricade" details a persistent man's willingness to keep climbing over the obstacles that his struggling partner sometimes inadvertently puts in his way: "Did you think I wouldn't notice/When you're building walls outside yourself/When your words leave me defenseless?/ … But I'm climbing on top/Right over your barricade/ … Here to give you the best of my love/Just when you think I'll walk away now."
Similarly, "Aftermath" finds a man urging his beloved to relinquish memories of painful conflict in the past and instead focus on the bright future they share ahead: "If we can make it through this storm/And become who we were before/Promise we'll never look back/The worst is far behind us now." Conversely, "Slow Motion" summons the strength to finally leave an unhealthy relationship behind.
Lines on "Only You're the One" could be interpreted in isolation as looking forward to an intimate encounter ("Tonight/It's the event/ … I'm with you as the lights go down/Take my hand, I'm all yours now"). Elsewhere on the song, however, Jason Wade sings about the lights going down before a concert, and it seems likely that the song is paying tribute to special person who's stood alongside a him through thick and thin before the band made it big.
"Nobody Listen" laments that many in society have lost the ability to listen compassionately: "Everybody talk, nobody listen/ … Travel through time and space/Where did love lose its place?/Can we find who we are?" The Deluxe Edition bonus track "Rolling Off the Stone" includes a verse in which a frustrated man seems critical of a woman's closeted drug habit ("I know someone who knows somebody/Knows how it goes/Who you really are behind closed doors/When they close/It went straight to your head/Right up through your nose").
The potholes and detours along life's way can take their toll at times—a reality Lifehouse has acknowledged repeatedly throughout its 12-year, six-album career. To these guys' credit, however, they've steadfastly refused to cave in to despair, sarcasm or cynicism. And Almería reinforces an admirable determination to press on with heads high and hearts full of hope.