ARTIST: PALM READER
WORDS: SEAN HUBBARD
Palm Reader have been a staple of the underground for the best part of a decade now, but their sonic evolution is unmatched. Almost unrecognisable from the scrappy hardcore band on 2013’s Bad Weather, newest album Sleepless is a masterpiece in dynamics, often eschewing their hardcore roots in favour of more ambient direction. This is not a change out of nowhere however, as 2018’s Braille provides the building blocks for this record, with the huge choruses and breath-taking interludes are expanded upon in much more depth.
Of course they haven’t abandoned their roots entirely, but they stack their more hardcore tracks with so many layers that it is often hard to tell where they are coming from, but ‘Stay Down’ is a prime example of how PalmReader have managed to add so many new elements into their sound whilst still retaining their trademark ferocity. It’s almost impossible to believe that these heavy vocals are the same Josh McKeown who provides such haunting vocals over later songs ‘A Bird and It’s Feathers’ and ‘Both Ends Of The Rope,’
“Almost unrecognisable from the scrappy hardcore band on 2013’s Bad Weather.”
To call this post-hardcore would be an insult to the band, as they have evolved into so much more than that. Their recent livestream hardily demonstrates how their sense of showmanship has grown with the band too, from the magnificent surroundings of St Edmund’s Church in Rochdale, which is almost the perfect metaphor for this record – a grand achievement of ambition that deserves only the finest of trappings to be performed in.
McKeown’s lyricism also deserves praise too, as he tackles some exceedingly difficult subjects – most notably the loss of a child from a mother’s perspective on ‘Willow.’ Whilst this could be hard to pull off, Palm Reader manage it beautifully, both in conveying the sense of loss felt by a family alongside the strength and resolve of a mother figure. It is a testament to his writing abilities that this doesn’t feel forced at any moment, and feels like a fantastic tribute to those who suffer through these terrible situations.
“If Braille was Ride The Lightning, then Sleepless is Master Of Puppets.“
It’s impossible to talk about this album without talking about the culmination of the entire record on ‘Both Ends Of The Rope,’ as it truly feels like it builds and builds until the end of that song, where guitarist Andy Gillan unleashes a superb guitar solo that really is the breaking point of the entire album. Whilst not necessarily noticeable on the first few listens, by the third or fourth you begin to notice quite how the album never entirely eases up on the listener until that specific moment right towards the end, releasing a beautiful sense of finality, and a piece of music that really summarises Sleepless as a whole.
Sleepless is undoubtedly Palm Reader’s finest record to date, which is saying quite a lot considering how excellent Braille was. Nonetheless, if Braille was Ride The Lightning, then Sleepless is Master Of Puppets. It is an absolutely fantastic piece of art, and also lays the groundwork for Palm Reader to go in an even more experimental direction in future. Palm Reader are one of the best bands this country has produced in the past decade, and they have completely surpassed all expectations, and will continue to do so for the rest of their career.