Emerging out of Surrey’s hardcore scene in the early part of the last decade, Palm Reader have always had a reputation for being a furious whirlwind of a hardcore band, justified by the acidic debut Bad Weather. Since then, however, the most interesting part of Palm Reader’s sound has been their flirtations with more melodic styles. Incorporating the sounds of post-metal and post-hardcore into their blend, Beside The Ones We Love and Braille both expanded considerably upon their sonic palette.
Sleepless continues the trajectory. Palm Reader now have a clear identity, stronger than ever before and unique to them. Even though this record contains the most sing-along choruses they’ve ever written, their sense of melody is still angular, and trips up the listener in the best kind of way. All the talk of melody is not to say that Palm Reader aren’t heavy, though. ‘Stay Down’ twins Mastodon-sized sludgy riffs with Josh McKeown’s caustic screams to produce the most instantaneously huge song on the record.
‘Willow‘ constantly surprises the listener, breaking into a chorus out of nowhere. The song’s structure keeps evolving throughout, and consequently it’s a hugely ambitious track. This ambition is shown more further into the record, ‘A Bird and Its Feathers’ providing the lengthiest and possibly the most expansive song of Palm Reader’s career. Its brooding verses and skyscraper-high chorus alternate and contrast beautifully, and its chaotic ending, horns included – is the perfect summit for the song to build towards.
‘A Love That Tethers’ begins with a downcast mood, not dissimilar from many of their post-hardcore peers from the past decade. However, the jazz-flecked interlude and towering melodies of the chorus separate Palm Reader as figureheads of the genre. The song flows effortlessly into ‘Both Ends of the Rope’, a song that caps off the record excellently. The synths at the end of the track doubling the guitars to make for a triumphant end.
Palm Reader have always been a band of the underground, striving for creativity over commerciality and that drive to better themselves has paid off hugely on Sleepless. It’s one of the most ambitious records of recent memory from a supposed hardcore band, and it puts them among heavyweights of both hardcore and post-metal. It recalls bands like Cave In, Glassjaw, and Failure – heavy yet otherworldy and expansive. Palm Reader’s crowning achievement (so far), Sleepless is sure to find its place at the upper end of many end of year lists.