Facs is a band with such a distinctive style that any change to it -- no matter how small -- makes a significant difference. On Lifelike, they make some subtle yet notable shifts, starting with their lineup: The trio's second album is its first recorded with bassist Alianna Kalaba, who joined shortly after the departure of founding guitarist Jonathan Van Herik. It's also the first Facs album with singer/songwriter Brian Case on guitar, the instrument he played in his previous band with drummer Noah Leger, Disappears. Case's return to six strings is a welcome reminder of how ferocious his playing can be; on the closing track, "Total History," his strumming is so brisk that it practically sparks the guitar inferno that engulfs the song's second half. It also allows the band to embellish on the post-punk blueprint they established on 2018's Negative Houses, adding more melody as well as more experimentation. For many bands, a more melodic approach might mean a more straightforward sound, but that's not the case with Facs. The trio leans into abstraction on Lifelike, blurring the boundaries between post-rock and post-punk and trading ideas with a dexterity that approaches jazz. Facs use their newfound melodicism to heighten the emotional complexity of their music, particularly on the highlight "In Time." "Time moves/When you do/I am in between," Case intones over warping guitars that throw his words into a new light with each undulation; is he left behind or liberated? Though it's the first Facs song to feature a traditional four-chord progression, it's not obvious -- instead, it lends a strange nostalgic undercurrent, as though the ghost of a pop song lurks within it somewhere. While Case's return to guitar is welcome, Lifelike also provides plenty of showcases for Leger and Kalaba. The only thing more startling than "Another Country"'s windchime-like guitars is just how massive Leger's drums sound; later, his prodding, processed beats lend focus to "Loom State"'s hovering paranoia. On "XUXA," Kalaba's bass grounds Case's swooping tones and Leger's rolling toms in melodic warmth that's almost felt more than heard. Elegant, unusual touches like these suggest Facs are still finding new complexities in their music on Lifelike, an album that demands and rewards close listening.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares