Review Summary: The world is indeed a beautiful place.
Emo is a genre that is either cherished or loathed by the listener. Most of my friends who have decent taste in music absolutely despise the genre, claiming that metal is by far better. I can’t remember a time where I gave into their arguments about the genre in earlier years, but some of their arguments are true. If not done correctly, Emo vocals can sound increasingly pretentious and downright annoying. Another argument brought up was that Emo has a limit, while metal can expand into many different sub-genres. This argument I completely disagree with. Sure the boundaries of Emo music are a bit limited, but some Emo bands like to include additional instruments to add a more sublime feeling to their music. American Football applied this to their album with their inclusion of the brass selection in a few songs. The music comes off with more ambience, adding to the overall experience of the sound significantly. “Whenever, If Ever” uses this effect to their advantage, as they include a wide variety of different instruments in many different categories as well as a superb vocalist.
The first track may sound like filler at first, but it details greatly what is to come. The first minute can be passed by leaving the listener to wonder what is to come. I for one was rather frightened by the dark tone of the opening minutes, leaving me to believe that this would come off as a Screamo album. As the violin kicks in however, I was left to gaze around the room. In fact, the violin in the last thirty seconds of the song sums up my opinion on the overall album, beautiful. The inclusion of such an elegant instrument in an Emo Punk album is something of its own, it provides the perfect opportunity to look up at the stars and wonder what else is to come. The best part about the whole opening however is that it is only the first two minutes of the album.
The second song on the LP is the introduction for the vocalist of the album; and he showcases his skill with his voice greatly. His voice rather vibrates with each lyric he produces, and the tone of his voice drops from an almost joyful sound to a mix of screams in another part of the song. It’s a lot better to hear the ride this vocalist can take you on this album then most other Emo albums. With the introduction to his harsh screams, it can become a clear way of exposing the violence of some of the lyrics. With his clean quiet voice, you can pick up the hopeless lyrics and depressing themes the album provides. Some songs can become a bit poppy; “Flightboat” contains a trumpet that plays perfectly with the crunchy guitar riff playing with it. Then the vocals turn to sound like bumps in the road as the pitch of his voice elevates gently just to drop back down in pitch. It’s truly unique for a vocalist to expose himself to this type of performance. Every individual time I listen to the album I discover something new to like about the vocals, which is a great way to increase the overall enjoyment of the album.
The excellent “Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t” showcases another technique the band has to offer, which is the bands amazing usage of the buildup. The song begins with a sad guitar, while the vocalist plays in harmony with the guitar’s tone. Then the drum rolls come into play, and the guitar picks up in speed. The lyrics become questions and answers, almost like that of a sub-conscious. It plays out perfectly in the end, and the song breaks off into another movement. Moments like this are found in many different songs on the album, which prove to be excellent transitions from movement to movement. My favorite usage of this technique is found on the grand finale of the album “Getting Sodas”. The drum roll plays out at the last minute or so of the song, and the crowds of voices start to hum in. Soon the voices get louder, until they are almost screaming. Then the album abruptly ends with a cymbal clash.
There are a few negatives that I came into contact with my first listening of the album that I am currently forgetting. The drums can get a bit out of hand, as drum rolls become common place in a large portion of the second half of the album. The vocals can sound a bit whiney at some points, but these are overall hiccups in what is an excellent vocal performance that don’t stain the composure of the music. The instruments are spot on, including the extra instruments such as the violin and brass selection. The lyrics are almost always fitting, even when they get a little repetitive to some extent. Overall, “Whenever, If Ever” is a fantastic Emo album. This album will not be forgotten so easily, and I hope their next release will achieve even greater acclaim.