Review Summary: Welcome back.…In Shallow Seas We Sail
is reason #473 why I’m an idiot. After Emery released their sub-par third album, 2007’s I’m Only a Man
, to what seemed to be a chorus of chirping crickets, I thought they had lost what made them special and would descend into a pit of obscurity (or other pretentious metaphor of your choice). They have responded with the most focused album of their career. I said the screaming portion of their alt-rock/post-hardcore hybrid sucked and they should just get rid of it; now the heavy parts of “Cutthroat Collapse” and “Curbside Goodbye” get me so fired up that I want to punch a hole in the wall directly facing me (in a good way, though). Basically, I thought Emery was dead and it turns out that they're most definitely alive and kicking. I also said Adam Lambert could never win American Idol
being as theatrical and sexually ambiguous as he was. And America’s votes vindicated me on that count. Unfortunately, that has nothing to do with Emery. Thus, I must admit defeat and accept (happily, I might add) that Emery is back and, in some respects, better than ever.
Yes, …In Shallow Seas We Sail
rules. It maximizes what has always been the band’s greatest strength (the outstanding vocals of Toby Morrell and Devin Shelton), brings renewed passion and improved technicality instrumentally, and retains the best elements of their good albums (2004’s The Weak’s End
and 2005’s The Question
) while also progressing in directions that fit the band well – something that definitely couldn’t be said about I’m Only a Man
. Long-time fans will undoubtedly call this a “return to form” and proceed to throw any left-over copies of I’m Only a Man
into a trash compacter, but really, there isn’t that much different stylistically between …In Shallow Seas We Sail
and its predecessor. What is different is that Emery has regained the strong songwriting that set them apart early in their career and, for the most part, stays away from the kitschy novelty parts that made I’m Only a Man
feel so fragmented and lazy. The second half of …In Shallow Seas We Sail
has some rather mundane moments that keep the album as a whole from reaching true greatness, but the vast majority of this is great stuff.
“Cutthroat Collapse” is the best song of the band’s career, bar none. Morrell and Shelton’s interweaving vocals in the chorus are pure bliss, but Matt Carter’s ATDI-esque guitar lines provide a perfect background to their outstanding melodies. The breakdowns in the bridge and outro are easily the most enjoyable Emery has ever done; the screaming vocals, usually a weakness for the band, have a sharp bite to them and inspire me to let out all my aggression that I usually save for beating my dog. Above all, the song’s energy has so much more in common with Translating the Name
-era Saosin or recent Underoath than I ever thought an Emery song could have. To put it mildly, the song slays. The entire first half of the album is virtually flawless, for that matter. “Curbside Goodbye” is a poignant slow-burner that gives way to a screaming climax with off-kilter guitars in the tradition of The Weak’s End
, “Churches and Serial Killers” features a godly finish combining Morrell’s fantastic vocals over dramatic strings, and the bittersweet title track is probably the vocal standout of the album as Shelton and Morrell trade off soaring melodies in the chorus, leading up to a restrained but nonetheless moving ending. Most encouraging to me is that many of the songs that don't immediately stand out on first listen ("Inside Our Skin," "Piggy Bank Lies") have the growing and staying power that made The Question
such a great listen. …In Shallow Seas We Sail
doesn't quite have the flow that album has, but its songs are arguably better and there are few albums flow as well as The Question
…In Shallow Seas We Sail
isn't perfect; some songs on the second half of the record seem a bit underdeveloped and rely on the same bag of tricks over and over, making me long for one of the band's songs with unconventional structures like "Disguising Mistakes with Goodbyes" or "Playing with Fire." On the other hand, if you had told me in January that the worst part of the new Emery record would be a few filler songs, I probably would have smiled, slowly nodded, and thought to myself, “Well, I think I can be down with that” or something along those lines but less dorky. Is …In Shallow Seas We Sail
the best Emery album yet? Maybe, maybe not. But the fact that there's even a debate is wonderful news. Die-hard fans will love this and those looking to get into the band now have a definitive starting point. Highly recommended for fans of Anberlin, Underoath, and The Receiving End of Sirens.
In Shallow Seas We Sail
The Smile, The Face
Churches and Serial Killers