Thrice continue their evolution by finding a cohesive message, deeper emotions, and confident experimentation. Palms is a rewarding listen and their best work to date.
The time has come for a new Thrice album. I take pleasure in not only getting to hear new songs from them, but also the opportunity to discuss them once again. When it comes to acts that I recommend to others, Thrice usually tops the list given their consistent, yet diverse catalog. From their skater punk Warped Tour days to the introspective post-hardcore records of the past few years, their discography is quite the journey. What makes this journey unique is I have enjoyed every step, detour, and moment along the way. Dustin Kensrue’s voice has aged unbelievably well and the songwriting continues to mature along with his raspy wails. 2016’s To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere was the band’s return after a lengthy hiatus and produced some of their best songs. “Black Honey” and “Hurricane” never fail in getting me in my feelings while still being incredibly catchy and anthemic. Let’s dig into Palms and see if this upward trajectory continues.
Palms happens to be the tenth studio record by Thrice and it also contains ten songs. Kicking off the record is “Only Us” and it’s a striking opening, but not for the usual reasons with this band. The opening riff is not that of a guitar, but of a synth. While the lead in sounds like it could be ripped from a Stranger Things episode, this track later integrates the fiery vocals we expect, as well as strong percussion, and guitar. It’s a thought-provoking opener that’s a call for unity with memorable sonic textures and a catchy chorus. Despite the experimentation, this still comes through as indelibly Thrice.
If “Only Us” felt like the evolution of the band’s sound, “The Grey” takes a slight step back and feels like it was conceived in the same space as TBEITBN. It’s melodic, intense, dynamic, and Dustin’s vocals are perhaps the best they’ve ever been. Lyrically, this song balances itself well by being direct, but also open to interpretation: ‘And my hands are open, reaching out / I’m learning how to live with doubt / I’m learning how to lean into the grey’. While this could take on many meanings, it seems that Dustin is learning that it’s okay not have all of the answers. Many, including myself, see this sentiment as a sign of growth and maturity. This matches incredibly well with how the band is moving forward with their music. Each phase, including this new one, is well thought out and made with confidence.
When we get to the fifth track on Palms, “Everything Belongs”, another new wrinkle awaits; piano. This is a soaring anthem with a bombastic chorus that will no doubt make its way into a bevy of inspirational playlists. What is becoming evident, is that this is a record about acceptance, reinvention, and progress. “ My Soul” is another slower composition where the vocal performance and the lyrics take center stage. It’s nothing short of stunning and one of the best songs on Palms. A big part of reinvention is taking risks and this song express that both lyrically and sonically. It’s not a surprise that Thrice have written great music, but their ability to put together a cohesive set of songs is still stunning no matter how many times it has happened so far.
As the album begins its closing phases, the hits keep coming. “Hold Up A Light” echoes the call for unity that began with “Only Us” but does so in much more traditional post-hardcore fashion. I really can’t wait to experience this one live: it’s engineered to get a crowd involved. “Beyond The Pines” is the closer and it’s a somber and hopeful song that shines a light on how incredibly well Dustin’s voice has aged. The dynamics of the song are masterfully orchestrated, including pushing the vocals further to the front of the mix as the song winds down. It’s an intimate and satisfying conclusion to an incredibly diverse and rewarding album.
It’s not difficult to tell Palms astounded me from the very first listen. Thrice continue their evolution with unbelievable confidence and prove that they do this better than anyone else in the game. Thematically, Palms is a cohesive message about growth through letting go, self-reflection, and unity. I have loved Thrice for a very long time, but I have never loved them more than I do now.