The Early November
Emo has always been a dirty word, but for me, the term didn’t truly take on a negative connotation until the ’00s, as bands like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy rose to prominence. One of the few groups that kept the genre viable was New Jersey’s The Early November. In true emo fashion, the band burned out within six years and two albums, but for a while frontman Ace Enders and his crew delivered reliably catchy tunes for Drive Thru Records.
The band’s best release remains their debut EP for the label, For All of This. It’s their most focused and aggressive, and everything after that failed to hit that sweet spot. The Acoustic EP comes off too earnest and out-of-key to me now. The Room’s Too Cold is too soft. That split with I Am the Avalanche offers up yet another version of the group’s more popular tunes, “Ever So Sweet,” which I was actually present for the recording of, but there’s not much else going on. The split was meant to help finance the band’s ambitious, uneven triple album The Mother, The Mechanic, and The Path. At best, this would have been a solid double record, but the band overreached by a wide margin. Disc 1 is like a Room throwback, whereas the second disc expands into folk and showtunes, and it’s actually kind of good. The third disc is a spoken word/Saddle Creek-esque concept album. I haven’t listened to it in five years.
But while I still dig some of TEN’s tunes, I’ve decided to part with their discography. I’m old enough to notice the flubbed notes and awkward lyrics. The band meant a lot to me in high school, but that’s where they belong.
E. (a.k.a. Mark Oliver Everett) has a knack has a knack for melancholy, bluesy tunes about failure. Sometimes he writes about suicide (“It’s a Motherfucker”) and sometimes he writes about breaking up (“I’m Going to Stop Pretending That I Didn’t Break Your Heart”), but it always comes back to failure. Still, he’s always applied a minimalist approach to songwriting that highlights his clever wordplay. E. usually juxtaposes seemingly positive words against shitty circumstances (i.e. “Your Lucky Day in Hell”). While I can’t say I’m completely behind his constantly growing discography, Meet the Eels has served me well over the years.
For shits and giggles, Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson made an indie rock EP that’s better than anything R.E.M. did in the ’80s.
This band of Texan siblings entranced me in high school before I had a firm grasp on ethereal indie pop, and in that sense I suppose Eisley was a good gateway band for me. From 2003 to 2005, I was obsessed. But lately I’ve felt underwhelmed by their otherwordly stylings; the group comes off like Coldplay. I can still remember wandering the local fields while blasting the Marvelous Things EP though.
While their output was far smaller compared to Oasis and Blur’s, Elastica is one of my favorite Britpop bands. Their self-titled is a sly, slinking, sexy collection, even if it does plagiarize a couple of bands. The Menace is a little weirder, but not necessarily uneven. I’ve also got a collection of BBC performances that’s ferocious. Like I said, big fan.
Good gravy, the video for Electric Six’s “Danger! High Voltage” was so creepy in 2003. Over the course of a few years, though, E6’s brand of over-the-top, comical Detroit blues rock won me over, and I was hooked on Fire. Señor Smoke was even better, tackling topics ranging from the Iraq War to The Backstreet Boys with the same flippant humor and energy. After that, the band kind stopped being funny, although I was amused by 2008’s Flashy when Define the Meaning asked me to review it.
Verdict: Keep the first two albums.
Ian MacKaye more or less invented hardcore with Minor Threat and post-hardcore with Fugazi. In between the two he helped found emo via Embrace, a band that barely lasted a year. While Embrace still played with Minor Threat’s intensity, you can hear new ideas percolating in the songwriting that would eventually be better realized in Fugazi. Embrace is probably my least favorite MacKaye band, but it’s still MacKaye all the same.
Emergency & I
Emo band I started in college with my cousin Mike. I never listen to these songs because of the way the band ended, but I can’t throw them away.
Empire Records soundtrack
I received the Empire Records soundtrack as a Christmas gift in 1995. I was nine years old. At the time, the compilation didn’t adhere to the steady diet of smooth R&B I was ingesting, so the record didn’t quite click for me until high school. Now I’m blown away by the tracklisting, which boasts original tracks from Gin Blossoms, The Cranberries, and Evan Dando. The two best tracks, though, are the super cool “A Girl Like You” by Edwyn Collins and “Sugarhigh” by Coyote Shivers, which was actually performed by the characters in the film.
Return of the Frog Queen, Jeremy Enigk’s first solo album, comes as something of a shock after his initial run with the epic, anthemic Sunny Day Real Estate. SDRE was huge; Frog Queen sounds like Nick Drake meets Peter Gabriel. It’s a modest, surreal record with orchestral flourishes. And it remained an oddity in Enigk’s discography for a decade until he finally dropped his second album, World Waits, in 2006. It sounds a little more confident, but it’s still very much in the orchestral indie vein. The Missing Link is a solid B-sides/live comp. I didn’t bother with Enigk’s latest solo release, regrettably. By that point, the formula got a little old for me. Still, I love hearing this guy’s alien rasp.
Monday, July 18, 2011
The Early November