Australian rock band Hands Like Houses are a busy bunch. Having released their album Unimagined last year, the boys have been busy touring with Pierce the Veil and Woe, Is Me over in the UK. Just a little over a year after their sophomore album, the Canberra natives are set to release Reimagine, a 5-piece EP comprised of re-vamped picks from Unimagine. It’s not quite a remix album but not all acoustic either; rather, this EP serves as a platform for the boys to showcase their musical creativity.
First off, don’t expect hard-hitting percussion and slashing guitars. While Hands Like Houses are really good at that, this EP moves away from that genre into more alternative rock. The point is, all the songs have been ‘reimagined’. The EPs’ opener, Recollect (Shapeshifters) pretty much sums it all up: they’re stripped back retakes of the originals. Although significantly less instruments are used, it doesn’t sound bare at all – rather, the addition of claps and evocative ‘hey!’s rouses the listener to attention. The track is also transposed down a key, better suiting lead singer Trenton Woodley’s voice. He’s not as high-pitched and frantic as the original, and even though this version is relaxed, it definitely does not lack feeling.
It’s not like the tracks have been tweaked beyond recognition. In fact, Revive (Introduced Species) retains the original riff, only this time it’s played by the keyboard. Not to fret though – the electric guitars still have a place in the track, but the pounding drums have been replaced by shakers. On the line ‘wake up,’ Woodley is joined by spine-chilling harmonies that seem to lift you up with the melody. His rock-star vocals are able to adjust to the mood of the track – in this case, strong and yet breathy to match this stripped down version. Release (A Tale of Outer Suburbia) is a combination of belting high notes and sombre low notes. Although it’s mellow, it’s definitely not lullaby material. It’s got a swaying beat and Woodley practically bleeds emotion onto the track – and this really shows through without the bashing drums and the cacophony of electric guitars.
For a change, Rediscover (No Parallels) takes on a more playful tone than the others. The arrangement matches the positivity of lines such as ‘this is happiness’ – in fact, it’s almost a poppy interpretation. With cheery keyboards, acoustic guitars and whistling (whistling!), it’s clear that Reimagine is an opportunity for the boys to explore their different musical sides. Likewise, Reflect (Developments) is also drastically different to the band’s usual sound. This is the lullaby of the EP, with beautiful piano melodies and a pitchy synth keyboard that sends everything to a magical, ethereal place. The full harmonies create an almost hymn-like feel, and when the drums finally join for the final lap they sound just right – not too pounding, but still crescendoing to Woodley’s angst.
It’s an impressive feat by the band, who have proven their musical versatility with this EP. Reimagine is a bit of a blessing in disguise – the thing with Unimagine was that it was just too busy. The vocals were usually overshadowed by the production; in fact, the accompaniment often played melodies of their own. We were never quite sure what to focus on in Unimagine, but this EP has redirected our attention back to the main attraction: Woodley’s voice, and the emotion that’s shining out of him.