Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Empire Empire – Year of the Rabbit 7 inch Review

May 19, 2008

(! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) – Year of the Rabbit 7-inch
( Your Lucky Stars Records/( No Capital Letters Records
Melodic, twinkly ‘90s indie-emo that will appease fans of the genre.

Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) plays melodic, twinkly ‘90s indie-emo. This is their second release, with their first full length being released last year. The good news is that they’ve gotten better; the bad news is that if you didn’t like them in the first place, they won’t be winning many converts.
E!E! has done a lot of improving in the span of a year. It’s a band instead of a solo project, and it shows. The sound is tighter, the arrangements are more normal, and the songs have a pulse to them that When the Sea Became a Giant didn’t often have. This sounds like a band, and a very well-practiced band at that. They don’t sacrifice the passion at all, but it’s clear that they have their timings down and their strings tuned. This is a much more refined E!E! They’re not on par with American Football, whom I consider to be the masters of this particular genre, but they’re moving towards that goal.
The dealbreaker for many people will be that E!E! is relentlessly emotional. I mean relentlessly. These songs are born out of emotion, feed on emotion, and breathe because of emotion. These songs are crisp, but the passion of emotions is the primary reason they exist.
The vocals are still the biggest giveaway of this mentality. Lead singer Keith Latinen has a high voice, even when he’s keeping it in the low register of his range on “Year of the Rabbit.” When he gets really worked up, like on “idk, my bff Jill,’ it gets to be yelping. It fits quite well with the music, which is flowing, note-heavy patterns and riffs backed up by pulsing bass and surprisingly snare-heavy drums for such flowing music. But it’s still hard to stomach at first.
Melodic, twinkly ‘90s indie-emo with high vocals and lots of emotion attracts a certain type of person and repulses several other types. The good thing for E!E! is that those who like that sort of thing will gravitate towards Year of the Rabbit. The bad thing is that people who don’t like this know they don’t like it. Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) is getting better at their craft and not compromising the sound that they love, for better or worse. For that they should be commended.

-Stephen Carradini

empire! Empire-when the sea became a giant

September 1, 2007

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


Label: Self-released

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.

-Stephen Carradini

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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