"If you can cut down on the number of pieces of gear, you can create a signature sound for the record," Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda told Billboard earlier this month while discussing the band's new album, "Living Things." "As we were working on it, it was a goal to only use the important sounds. Anything that wasn't playing a role in a song we got rid of."
"Living Things," Linkin Park's fifth studio album, is certainly stripped-down compared to the alt-metal-electro-rock band's previous oeuvre -- but not necessarily in the way that Shinoda is describing. Co-produced by Shinoda and Rick Rubin, "Living Things" is less busy than 2010's "A Thousand Suns," and includes more tracks that strictly adhere to a certain genre or uncluttered idea. But the album is also more bare-bones as a whole: at only 36 minutes, "Living Things" includes four tracks that clock in under three minutes, and nothing that makes it to the four-minute mark. Unfinished ideas reside comfortably next to gorgeous production values, and often, the listener ends up craving more.
But "Living Things" is by no means a poor album -- tracks like "Castle of Glass" and "Victimized" are among some of the band's most successful experiments, while "Burn It Down" and "Powerless" are classic examples of why Linkin Park remains vital while its nu-metal compatriots have more or less fallen by the wayside. "Living Things" is simply a minor effort in an impressive discography, and one that should translate well to Linkin Park's live show.
Which songs on "Living Things" are among Linkin Park's best work? Check out our track-by-track breakdown of the new album.
1. Lost in the Echo - Bubbling synthesizers quickly morph into crunching guitars, and the rap-rock interplay between Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington remains ever intact.
2. In My Remains - The production here lends to Linkin Park's overall potency, with the crisp verses sliding succinctly into the song's refrains. The melodic bridge -- "Like an army, falling, one by one by one" -- is not exactly ominous, but offers an early moment of yearning poignancy.
3. Burn It Down - The lead single still earns its meal ticket through its inviting synth line -- which NBA fans heard for weeks as the song was used as the anthem of this year's playoffs. Shinoda's rhymes are a bit limp, but Bennington soldiers through with his signature intensity.
4. Lies Greed Misery - Who let Skrillex in the booth? Thick bass wobbles and programmed drums offer a bold new look for Linkin Park, as Bennington's screeching is choked out by the static.
5. I'll Be Gone - Buzz-saw guitar riffs and cymbal bashes highlight this fairly straightforward, highly grim ode to disconnection and loneliness. A compelling descent that recalls 90s modern rock heroes like Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots.
6. Castle of Glass - A folk song with LP's muscle, "Castle of Glass" uses compelling songwriting, extended metaphors and a simple but radical (for Linkin Park) arrangement to offer one of the album's most intriguing tracks.
7. Victimized - Like "Lies Greed Misery," "Victimized" rushes through its various ideas in under three minutes; the juxtaposition of Shinoda's lullaby and Bennington's heady thrashing is thrilling, but alas, needs more room to breathe.
8. Road Untraveled - A piano ballad that leads to Bennington delivering some forlorn "Whoa-oh-oh's" and grows, expectedly, into a showcase for power chords and extended lighters. Trite, but damn, does it inspire some head-banging.
9. Skin To Bone - The album returns to Linkin Park's familiar electronic tropes, but the punishing percussion and winding climax make "Skin To Bone" feel fresh.
10. Until It Breaks - Shinoda busts some rhymes over slick, futuristic production until Bennington halts the smack-talk and orders, "Bring me to kingdom come!" If "Until It Breaks" isn't the most cohesive effort, it might be the most entertaining -- a weird, gleeful train wreck of a rock hymn.
11. Tinfoil - A glitchy instrumental that serves as a capable bridge between the two bookending tracks. Again, another quick cut that could have been extended a little.
12. Powerless - Finally, on the 12th and final track, the deluxe Linkin Park package is presented: lock-step beats, soaring harmonies, and synthesizer whispers before Brad Delson's guitar comes in for the kill.