Review: The Early November – Lilac

I read once that The Early November chose their name because, much like that time of year, they changed their sound as often as the late seasons. I have no idea how true that actually is, but it has always rang true to me. The Early November have altered and changed from album to album, never staying with one sound for too long. The only constant is the emotional vulnerability that every song brings. Lilac brings not only the biggest change to the sound the band have developed after almost 20 years, it is quite possibly the most robust album the band has delivered since The Room Is Too Cold.

You can buy or stream Lilac on Apple Music.

Lilac is a stylistically diverse album, a fact it presents almost immediately. The Early November manage to juggle the sound of punk rock, Fall Out Boy-lite pop elements and incredibly intricate instrumentation. The flourish of trumpets or the somber whale of a french horn pepper into songs and constantly surprise the listener. The lilac flower is a symbol of innocence, and it shows across the album with tales of finding the lowest of emotional depths, only to pull yourself together. In the end, Lilac is an album of redemption.

Vocalist and songwriter Ace Enders pushes the sound of the band further than ever before. No two songs sound alike and each flows seamlessly to the next. Guitarists Bill Lugg and Enders find a variety of sounds from punk rock (“My Weakness”) to twinkling indie rock (“Hit By A Car (Euphoria)”) to dance riffs that act as a background to the rest of the instrumentation (“Fame”). Bassist Sergio Anello rips through a series of deep riffs (“My Weakness”) while multi-instrumentalist Joseph Marro’s piano and guitars layer thick (“You Own My Mind”). Drummer Jeff Kummer keeps pace with Enders, varying from intricate dance beats (“Perfect Sphere (Bubble)”) to deep melancholic bursts (“I Dissolve”).

Enders himself delivers a vocal performance different from any past release, whether that be with The Early November or his solo project, I Can Make A Mess. He pushes his vocals to shout and croon (“Hit By a Car”), enters the realm of pop (“Fame”; “You Own My Mind”), and almost whispers melody (“The Lilac”).

Opening song “Perfect Sphere (Bubble)” quickly sets Lilac apart from TEN’s discography. The energetic pianos, etherial guitars and Enders’ angelic croons deliver a sound that stands out against the moody rock of years past. “My Weakness”, a garage rock jam with a bridge and chorus that hint at what it would be like to hear Taylor Swift write a punk song, especially with Enders’ styled squeak during the chorus.

“Ave Maria” dances through an uplifting beat as Enders reflects on letting himself and a loved one down (“I thought if I looked nice, I would feel nice / And you would see me right, you would see me right / But it was an old lie, it was a cold lie / It was a long night.”). But for each downer, Enders weighs it with one of hope, such as the moody “Our Choice”. The song wrestles with the idea of addiction, as he swings back and forth between feeling enslaved to it and fighting back. “There is a choice to be alive, when failure keeps you up at night / So every morning, I will try / I will never stop the fire / I have a choice to be alright”.

The Early November constantly shift and push themselves in directions that no one sees coming. But consistency isn’t needed with a band so confident in themselves. Lilac bucks every expectation placed upon it, and steps away as one of the fullest albums The Early November have ever written. It demonstrates just how much the group can adapt and shift, but never remain predictable for long.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and just realized his air conditioner is running even though it is like, 50 degrees outside. What a silly goose he is.

Review: The Early November – Fifteen Years

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The Early November have been such a beloved band for nearly two decades because they find ways to adapt their sound while maintaining the ability to sound like the same band that burst onto the emo scene in the early naughts. But one of their most enduring legacies is that each album seems to contain a show-stopping acoustic song, whether it be The Room is Too Cold’s melancholic “Dinner At the Money Table”, or the defeated rail against modern music of “Digital Age” from In Currents. It’s something that seems to be not only guaranteed with each record, but the songs become and remain crowd favorites.

You can buy Fifteen Years on Bandcamp.

You can buy Fifteen Years on Bandcamp.

Fifteen Years is a fitting collection of a visit throughout the band’s discography that highlights some of their best songs while managing to hit that sweet middle ground for hardcore fans, bypassing many of the group’s most famous singles that have been played at every show they’ve ever had. This is the essence of The Early November on full display without having to play favorites to get people to listen.

I’ve seen The Early November almost half of a dozen times since their reunion in 2011, and the most startling thing to me was how their triple disc album, The Mother, The Mechanic, & The Path was ignored almost entirely for several years in favor of new material from In Currents and Imbue and the hits from The Room Is Too Cold. Perhaps because several tracks have already received the acoustic treatment on I Can Make a Mess’s Dust’n Off the Ol’ Guitar album, songs from the band’s debut LP and EP, For All of This barely appear. And it’s a good thing, as it gives the next 12 years of the group’s career the chance to shine past emo nostalgia.

It’s hard to evaluate whether any of the songs sound better acoustically than their original recordings, but that’s a matter of taste. What makes Fifteen Years so special is that it strips everything away and shows what a lovingly crafted song remains. There are a few added flairs, such as the new country-esque guitar solo that acts as the bridge midway through “Outside” or the intimate solo of “A Little More Time” fleshed out.

A few surprises give a new soul to several songs I never expected to see again, such as “Call Off the Bells”. Originally a barbershop quartet turned punk song of a wedding gone wrong, with Ace’s voice screaming over sizzling guitars, its new form is a heartbreaking ballad pleading at the memory of what love should have been. “The Mountain Range In My Living Room” lacks the grunge aesthetic, instead presenting itself as a song of hopeful rebellion

There is such a passion that seeps into the songs, it’s a simple task to see why Ace Enders’ acoustic songs are a league above his peers, especially at this point in his career, when his voice has never been better. Strong, confident and emotive, this version of “Ever So Sweet” is a stronger cousin to the raw version from The Room Is Too Cold, where a young Enders’ voice almost crackles on the high notes.

Fifteen Years is something every fan of Ace Enders should hear. It’s a definitive collection of The Early November’s material without being a greatest hits album. It’s also his best vocal work to date, improving on past recordings without losing the soul of the lyrics. The biggest detriment to the album is honestly a lack of the other band members. There are layered guitars, but it’s impossible to tell who is on what, and I found myself longing for Jeff Kumer’s drumming. Regardless, Fifteen Years is the type of album that makes you proud to be a fan of someone who’s career has been a part of your life for so long.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has been a staunch supporter of TEN for 15 years. You kids and your electricity music. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT MUSIC IS! *grumble grumble fist shake grumble*

Remembering The Room Is Too Cold

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Ten years ago saw the release of one of the most influential albums I’ve ever known – The Early November’s The Room Is Too Cold. In an era of my life when Blink 182 and early Saves the Day ruled my CD players, The Early November put out a record unlike anything I’d listened to up to that point, and which hasn’t been replicated for me since. It was sincerely the first album that gave me tears as it ended and reverberates with me even now thinking about it.

The Room Is Too Cold is unlike most of the albums on the scene within the last decade and stands unique even amongst TEN’s own discography. It’s a raw bare-boned creep that plays off of genuine emotion to tell a story of heartbreak and inner turmoil. There is no autotune and less melody and pop of the later albums The Early November would release. These are songs that include the crack and squeak of a young Ace Enders’ voice and a righteous disappointment in love.

Make no mistake, this is a miserable and depressing series of songs muddied in flat tones, raunch melody and the signature pop punk of the early 2000’s. This is an album recorded prior to Ace Enders writing the power pop for The Early November’s sophomore album or his solo work in Ace Enders and a Million Different People. It’s just a jagged experiment in emo with a smooth mix of soft acoustic ballads, slow rock and a peppering of Drive-Thru era punk. Almost every song bleeds into or sets up the next one, flowing together into one conscious thought of depravity and flailing hope. But ten years on, this is the album that started the careers of a band that has outlasted many that grew up with them. The Room Is Too Cold may just be one of the most underrated masterpieces in songwriting that has ever been made.

This is the only album I can think of where every song reflects an emotion outright rather than just a pop song singing about them. Each song has a distinct sound uninhibited by production and touch ups that makes it a unique link in the chain of realizing that you’re falling out of love. “Ever So Sweet” starts off slowly with the admission of seeing a lie in someone else and wrapping yourself through that. “The Mountain Range In My Living Room” is a swaying jam about falling into depression and the strength in lies. Crowd favorite “Baby Blue” is one of the stand out singles from the record, as its punk edge beats at the rhythm of an angry heart. The flat chords emulate the panicking pulse of someone vindictive of a break up and justifying why it’s all over.

If there is anything to take away from the album though, it’s the almost title track, “Everything’s Too Cold…But You’re So Hot”. The song is a slow trod through repetitive defeat, realizing that the love you once knew is completely and utterly gone. The clank of the guitar against the vocals is a miserable, beautiful sound through foggy tragedy, and picks up momentum near the end when the electric guitars come alive in fury. It ultimately ends with Enders screaming, “You know I always forget” at the top of his lungs through crackling vocal chords and finally ends with such a tone of despair, it seems like someone physically punched him while recording. It’s a desperate plea of loathing and defeat so pure it helps the album’s theme stay relevant and fresh a decade later without losing the effort that originally made it.

While most ten year old albums have a tendency to feel dated, especially as the band grows and matures, The Room Is Too Cold remains painfully relevant. While I hope that the Early November are able to create their opus, it’s hard to tap into a vein so truthful and honest. Regardless, this is an album worthy of an anniversary, as there won’t be anything like it for a long time.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.