After many listens to Living Things, and many thoughts of why this album hasn't resonated with me as much as albums in the past, I think I finally have the main reason.
I'll start by saying that I love electronic elements. Linkin Park's ability to weave them into songs with ease is something that I love about the band. BUT, I think using those "tools" to convey a heavy emotion like they have been doing is beginning to take away from a lot of the passion in the songs. And the songs on LT were passionate, you could tell by the vocals. I just feel like the guitar does need a little bit of a comeback to really back up the words. What I'm concerned about is that maybe they've grown a little too comfortable with their style as it stands now, and that it will get in the way of them practicing on the pure musicianship of their music. Mike makes things easy for them. He comes up with a great sample, an epic backbeat, and then half the song is already completed. I would like more creativity in Rob's drumming. More intricate and complicated guitar parts and basslines. More scratches from Joe. I know they're capable of it.
The portability of their equipment, and the fact that Mike is such a tireless worker helps their creative process. But at the same time, I'm beginning to think it might hurt them as well if they go into the studio thinking "oh, well Mike came up with all of this great stuff on the road. Let's just roll with it and add a few things here and there" And then BAM, another good-but-not-great album.
Hybrid Theory was great. Meteora (although I personally love it) was a let down because it was HT 2. Minutes to Midnight was great because they spent so much time wondering how they could be innovative. A Thousand Suns took the same premise from Minutes to Midnight, and they made one of the best albums you could ever dream of listening to. There was tension in the studio that made them become perfectionists. And then on LT, they were so comfortable with what they had, they took it, ran with it, made commercial sellers, but something that lacked the emotions that I felt on the four previous releases.
I think if they took the time to come up with something that feels organic, and then add in the processed sounds later, it would be a solid step in the right direction for everyone: the band and their fans.
I probably contradict myself a lot here, but it's a feeling that's hard to explain. Thoughts?