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Palm Reader - Sleepless (Album Review)

Tuesday, 01 December 2020 Written by Alex Mace

When we talk about new records the same set of cliches often pop up. Is it a complete about face? The result of a new blend of influences? Or perhaps a case of a band digging their heels in with the tried and tested sounds of the past? But such an approach simply won’t do for an album as exciting as Palm Reader’s ‘Sleepless’. Four albums in, these UK hardcore heavyweights have found their zenith.

‘Sleepless’ does away with the Dillinger Escape Plan comparisons that have plagued its three predecessors to reveal something almost entirely its own. While remnants of Palm Reader’s signature menace still haunt the start-stop beatdowns of tracks such as Stay Down, the album offers greater cinematic scope for what is their most intriguing and emotionally vulnerable material to date.

Across 10 tracks, we’re submerged in a variegated soundscape, with the fervent chugs and sporadic riffage of pumped up cuts like Hold/Release and Brink tempered by the glossy, almost ethereal tones of the record’s keys-led pieces.

Tying things together is an overarching sense of emotional drag. Whether through compelling vocalist Josh Mckeown’s chameleon-like performances or the album’s instrumental sweep, it’s not uncommon for ‘Sleepless’ to pull at the heartstrings.

Each track, though, seeks its own path to conveying that idea. Some are small three minute intermezzos and others, like the album centerpiece A Bird and its Feathers, draw on a multifaceted narrative to keep listeners on their toes. Islay, meanwhile, is an ambient exercise where the record’s well-rounded production is put to the test. 

With ‘Sleepless’, Palm Reader have not only topped each previous entry in their own discography, they have also provided a much needed bookend as we approach 2020’s closing moments. A bold, colourful breath of fresh air, ‘Sleepless’ is required listening.

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