Band Name: empire! empire! (i was a lonely estate)
Album Name: when the sea became a giant
Best Element: Guitar-centric, really downer music of heartbreaking passion, catharsis and nostalgia.
Genre: Mellow, artsy emo
In the movie version of High Fidelity, Rob famously conjures “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable, or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”
I was reminded of this because the intricately named empire! empire! (i was a lonely estate) is one of those bands that I can see putting on when I’m in one of those moods. E!E! is music of heartbreaking passion and catharsis; music that is long on earnestness and short on restraint.
E!E! could be called a lot of different things, but what it’s called is not the point. Ringleader Keith Latinen creates guitar-centric pieces that churn and twinkle their way into a really downer mood. The drums emphasize all the points that the guitars make, but never take control of the sound. The best example is the passionate end of “Lilly, I have something important to tell you,” where the drums could very well go overboard, but don’t. The vocals are of equal but not more importance than the guitars – this is due in part to the fact that the vocals are mixed at nearly the same level as the guitars. Standout track “They will throw us to the wolves” is the best example of this shoegazer-esque mix strategy.
“They will throw us to the wolves” is excellent in more than just mixing – the vocal performance exceeds all others in quality and execution. On tracks such as “You have to believe that life is more than the sum of its parts, kiddo” the vocals are deliberately off-key; it’s deliberately off-key, because in “h.o.h.o. (the most of my worries are the least of your concerns)” the same vocal style is used, but the vocals are on key this time. That, along with the great guitar mood set in “h.o.h.o.”, makes it also a candidate for best song on this EP.
In the end, E!E! is music for a specific mood. I wouldn’t ever just throw this on in my car – this is music for nostalgia, for sadness, for bad days. It’s intricate, it’s talented, it’s beautiful, but it’s very specific. If you’re into this type of thing, you’re going to love it. Otherwise, it’s one to skip.