Review: Emery – Eve

I’m obsessed with Emery. The harmonies, musicianship and lyricism have both spoken to me and impacted the rest of my musical taste in a way (almost) no other band has. I get excited whenever they even think about releasing something new. This stems from the time I saw the music video for “Butcher’s Mouth”. Something about that song (the video was just a means to an end, I guess) opened up a possibility to me about the span of music that was outside my adolescent bubble, and I’ve followed the band ever since, from albums to podcasts. I’ve never seen them live, which is really to say, hey, Emery, please come to Boston.

You can buy or stream Eve on Apple Music.

With 2015’s You Were Never Alone, my personal favorite album, the band embarked on a Kickstarter journey to self-fund the music they create. They broke up with Tooth & Nail Records and, with no offense to Brandon Ebel, started creating the best music of their career. This led to the release of last year’s Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined, and their latest, Eve.

Eve looks like a heck of a long album with 15 tracks, but it’s only 41 minutes long. Throughout the album, the band gets personal in a way they haven’t really done before. Generally, an Emery album consists of a bunch of songs about breakups, but (and I’m not sure whether this is a correlation) with the split from Tooth & Nail, the band’s last two albums constantly touch on new themes for Emery. There’s an entire set of Break It Down (Matt Carter’s podcast) episodes about You Were Never Alone. I won’t give you the details of them because it’s much more fulfilling to listen to them. The time and thought Emery puts into their art is really showcased in the episodes and really made me appreciate them more than I already had.

“Fear Yourself” might be the heaviest track here. Talking about sin and the hypocrisy in the church, Toby sings in the chorus: “Fear yourself is all I heard / Horror-struck from the Holy Word” and, “…outside those walls they mauled the witness / And we got back to business”. Very on-brand for the members to sing about; they deal with it in virtually every episode of their “Bad Christian” podcast. I mean, they wouldn’t have to deal with it so much if it weren’t so true and physically visible, but c’est la vie. These guys have become a voice of dissension in millennial church circles, but I happen to think it’s necessary.

“Safe” is a song that Devin and Matt wrote after both of their mothers passed away during the recording of Eve. It’s a lovely tribute, and the harmonies Emery is so known for really shine here.

A highlight of the album is the ridiculously titled, “People Always Ask Me If We’re Going to Cuss in an Emery Song”. Emery did not. I’m pretty sure this is a song to everyone who listens to their podcast (in which profanity is abundant) and, other than the question in the title, ask: “How can you guys talk like that and still be religious?” Emery’s reply is that they’re just words and they don’t matter.

Needless to say, I’m psyched with the new Emery album. I’ve got to take a little more time to dive into the lyrics and figure out where it fits into my Emery album ranking, but, so far, it’s pretty high up there. Kickstarter was made to release albums like this. The band has proven three times now that they’re capable of producing exquisite art, and Eve is another great example of that.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Advertisements

Review: Emery – Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined

What does someone write about an album of old songs? A lot, apparently, when it’s as rich of an experience as is the case of Emery’s latest offering, Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined.

You can buy Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined on iTunes.

Oftentimes, when a band re-releases old songs, whether it be an acoustic version or a remix, I’m not a huge fan. I generally enjoy the original recording more because I like an organic representation of the artist’s interpretation and intent when writing and composing. I’ve changed my opinion in recent years, because everyone looks back on past work and wonders what they could’ve done differently. With Emery’s Revival, the band captures that thought process perfectly.

Each track has been carefully re-crafted and entirely thought through. Originally an EP of three songs given as a gift to Kickstarter backers, they apparently enjoyed the process so much that they turned it into virtually another full-length. I’ve been listening to Emery for a long time and when I listened to Revival, it didn’t sound like the Emery I knew. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising when I did a bit more research and learned that the members of Emery weren’t overly involved with the production and planning. Their touring guitarist, Chris Keene was more involved with the composition side of things and really made a change sonically.

One of the things I especially enjoyed was the lack of harsh vocals. I may just be getting old, but I don’t have as much patience for lyrics I can’t understand. I was excited to really be able to hear and pick apart some of the lyrics that I missed in the original versions of the tracks. There’s something special about listening to lyrics rather than reading them from a random site that you’ve Googled. It provides a more personal approach and connection to the artist and their artistic intention.

The composition of all of Emery’s music is something to be severely impressed with. The members of the band have such an incredible set of skills when it comes to production, songwriting and musicianship. This album was no different. Each track has new elements and interesting facets, and it’s a joy to listen to. Toby Morrell and Devin Shelton are vocal masterminds. Their harmonies are honestly unmatched and I can only chalk that up to the longevity of the band and how well they’ve worked together over the past years.

Favorite tracks for me were generally the ones I’m most familiar with from other albums, the top track for sure being, “The Smile, The Face”. Even though that doesn’t rate as one of their heavier tracks, I loved the way that they managed to soften it up even more. The only complaint I have is the lack of tracks from their 2011 album We Do What We Want. That album, along with their last release, 2015’s You Were Never Alone, is my favorite album and I was a bit disappointed to see that they ignored it. I would’ve especially loved to hear a new version of “Scissors”.

Emery never fails to excite me with any release announcement. Regardless of the familiarity and age of these songs, Emery has managed to completely revamp their sound once again. Based on what they’ve accomplished with this collection, I am eagerly awaiting another full album and look forward to what they’ll do next.

4/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Podcast: Interview with Emery’s Matt Carter

Somehow, in between hosting multiple successful podcasts and fulfilling his duties as co-founder of an independent media company, Matt Carter still finds time to play guitar for Emery. Matt joined Kiel Hauck on our latest podcast to discuss what goes into the making of one of this year’s hit new podcasts – “Labeled: The Stories, Rumors, & Legends of Tooth & Nail Records”. He also shares how Emery re-imagined some of their favorite songs for their recent release, Revival, gives his take on recent news regarding sexual misconduct in the scene, and much more. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What are some of your current favorite podcasts? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Emery Shines on “The Question” Anniversary Tour

emery-tour-splash

Something that gets lost in the onslaught of 10th anniversary tours is just how hard it is to create something worth celebrating a decade later. Crafting an album that resonates with an audience and influences its genre in such a way as to warrant continued celebration 10 years after its release is something every band strives for. To do it twice? That’s something only the most gifted of bands can claim.

Emery’s 10th anniversary tour for their debut, The Weak’s End, was just a primer. That trek celebrated a band in its beginnings – The Weak’s End was an emo expedition through odd time signature changes, quirky melodies and moments of explosive fury. For as unbridled of a debut as that album was, their breakthrough sophomore effort, The Question, was a refined piece of post-hardcore excellence.

That both albums are so different yet both hold such a place of distinction in the scene ethos speaks volumes to Emery’s songwriting capabilities and their capacity to evolve.

Supporting on this 10th anniversary tour for The Question is The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, a worthy contemporary that no doubt was inspired over the years by Emery’s output. Although it’s been a few years since Red Jumpsuit relinquished their stranglehold as rock radio celebrities, they haven’t lost their spark. In particular, vocalist Ronnie Winter sounds stronger than ever before.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

It’s certainly a treat for everyone in attendance to hear smash singles like “Face Down” and “Your Guardian Angel”, but the band shines when playing their newer material as well. Winter forgoes his usual screaming parts, instead letting his brother Randy carry the guttural load. The payoff is that Winter is free to let his wide vocal range explore new territory as he takes worthwhile liberties with the melody. It’s not hard to imagine The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus embarking on their own 10th anniversary tour next year for their debut, Don’t You Fake It.

For a band as special as Emery to still be active nearly 15 years into their career (the band released You Were Never Alone earlier this year), it’s hard to complain about a commemorative tour of this nature. Even so, it’s difficult not to feel the harsh absence of Devin Shelton, the savory harmony to vocalist Toby Morrell’s sweet melody. The unique mixture of Shelton and Morrell’s vocals is something that placed Emery ahead of their peers through the years.

Emery

Emery

Even so, the rest of the band is in fine form. Drummer Dave Powell brings power to heavier moments on tracks like “Returning the Smile You Have Had from the Start”, while guitarist Matt Carter drives forward “Studying Politics” with poppy riffs and Josh Head’s synthesizers and spastic screams add energy to the set. Part of what makes The Question so unique is the band’s ability to combine so many elements to the mix while remaining exceedingly accessible.

If The Weak’s End was an excuse to thrash about alone in your bedroom, The Question provides release in the form of dancing and group sing-alongs. Everyone in attendance croons in unison to the lyrically poignant “Listening to Freddie Mercury” and jumps about to the fast-paced chorus of “Left with Alibis and Lying Eyes”. It’s a testament to legendary producer Aaron Sprinkle that The Question flows so effortlessly from front to back, even with all of its idiosyncrasies. It’s a testament to Emery that the album plays so well in a live setting all these years later.

In truth, Emery would have been hard pressed to recreate the manic magic of The Weak’s End. The band’s choice to write concise, melodic post-hardcore songs on their follow-up perhaps not only extended their career, but served as the building blocks for so many bands that would follow in their footsteps. If anyone wondered in 2005 if there was room in the screamo scene for a band as pensive and peculiar as South Carolina’s Emery, the answer is in The Question.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Emery – You Were Never Alone

Emery-2013

There’s no denying that Emery has had a fascinating career arc. Their first two albums, The Weak’s End and The Question, both served as high water marks in the screamo scene, with the latter placing the band among the genre’s elite. Later releases would find the band dabbling in alt rock and even metalcore amidst scattered touring and multiple lineup changes.

Recent years have found Emery exploring new territory. The band left their longtime home of Tooth and Nail Records to start a new label and accompanying podcast titled Bad Christian. Despite releasing no new music in four years, the guys have remained relevant voices in the scene, making the choice to crowdfund their latest release a no brainer.

You Were Never Alone pays homage to “old” Emery – full of fight, with dueling vocals and poppy hooks. It’s not a perfect album, nor is it the best release of the band’s career, but it works. It also makes sense as a nostalgic ride as the band celebrates the 10th anniversary of The Question.

Perhaps the best thing about You Were Never Alone is the return of former guitarist and vocalist Devin Shelton, whose voice adds the much-needed response to singer Toby Morrell’s. His presence is felt from track one – “Rock, Pebble, Stone” is a smooth rock number full of wonderful harmonies from Shelton and Morrell over a sweet bass line. It’s a far cry from the crushing metalcore of We Do What We Want, but don’t get too comfortable.

“Thrash” may very well be the most violent song of Emery’s career, offering a punch to the gut after the album’s unassuming opener. The band gives their best Every Time I Die impression as Morrell screams and shouts over shredding guitars before the song ends with an abrupt groovy, jazz-like finish. Emery has always had a way with curveballs, and “Thrash” may be their most knee-buckling yet.

Most of You Were Never Alone falls somewhere between the ying and yang of the first two tracks, sounding like a close relative of In Shallow Seas We Sail. “Hard Times” is a throwback Emery track with back-and-forth dual vocals and a soaring chorus. “Pink Slip” plays off of Shelton and Murrell’s trade off before adding a crushing breakdown. “Salvatore Wryhta” is an upbeat, fast-paced tune with killer screams sprinkled in for good measure.

Missteps come in the form of a complete lack of keyboard lines that made the band’s early work so stellar, and the absence of any tracks featuring Shelton on lead vocals. Although songs like “Go Wrong Young Man” and “Alone” may fall flat, they’re easily covered up by the accessibility of “The Less You Say” and “To the Deep”. If You Were Never Alone is a mixed bag, it comes up shining more often than not.

Emery have long tackled the tensions of human relationships while using that friction as a tool to search for truth. That conversation continues here, but the growth and complexity of the search continues to expand. The band has made a career out of tiptoeing along the lines of hard answers, preferring instead to defer to even harder questions. It’s a tactic that speaks volumes, regardless of what philosophical background you’re coming from.

As scene veterans, Emery have earned the right to experiment and forge their own path. The process continues on You Were Never Alone, but this feels as much like an album for the fans as any you’ll hear this year. The combination of new and old suits the band well in 2015 and solidifies their status as songwriting pros in the post-hardcore scene.

3.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.