Review Summary: An album that will make you very sad (but not in the good way)
The change in style Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) have implemented on their second full length album You Will Eventually Be Forgotten
should not have come as a surprise. Since the release of their first full length What It Takes To Move Forward
in 2009, the midwestern emo husband and wife duo have put out two EPs and countless splits through which a straight forward, literal lyrical approach cast over shorter, more straight to the point musical arrangements was adopted and evolved. Unfortunately this changing of tides is largely unsatisfactory in a full length context, especially compared to the duo's genre defining first album, and I'm afraid the melancholy album title is likely to become a self fulfilling prophecy.
Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) first started using storytelling lyrics based on first hand accounts told through similes and straight forward wording in 2011 with the release of their second EP Home After Three Months Away.
The songs on that release were very strong instrumentally, and the lyrics seemed to exist to compliment already strong music. Much of the music here however feels stale and rehashed, and more of an afterthought with most of the emphasis placed on the lyrics. This isn't inherently a problem, but the lyrics aren't strong enough to stand out on their own, and they don't fit the music a lot of the time. A major problem with this style of linear storytelling lyrics is once the emotional climax of the lyrics is known, the impact is largely gone on repeated listens. Some of the lyrical themes are uninteresting when told in a flat, straightforward manner, such as "Stay Divided," whose tale of teenagers flipping a raft and not much else is unmoving emotionally, and although the sentiment is appreciated, so many songs about the band's personal life doesn't leave the impact that a broader topic would. The lyrics on You Will Eventually Be Forgotten
are good, but don't even come close to the better utilized lyrical style of What It Takes To Move Forward
and the similar, but much stronger Home After Three Months Away
The biggest shortcoming is how Empire! Empire! fare musically. Gone are the six to eight minute post-rock inspired epics that invoked great emotion and atmosphere; in are three and a half minute long tracks that go nowhere musically and exist merely to supplement lyrics. A song that goes places lyrically, but does not musically results in a feeling of awkwardness and unfulfillment. The best songs on the album are the ones where shifts in the song structure match shifts in the lyrics. Songs like "You Have to Be So Much Better than You Ever Thought" and "It's So Much Darker When a Light Goes Out than When It Would Have Been If it Had Never Shone" build musically as the lyrics build, and the instrumental climax in the latter track beautifully reflects the climax in the lyrics. Unfortunately most of the other tracks plod along musically and fizzle out without any sort of real climax. Unmemorable music that is subservient to lyrics that aren't strong enough to carry a song on their own keeps You Will Eventually Be Forgotten
from reaching the Olympian heights Empire! Empire! are capable of achieving.
With all that said, with all the criticisms levied, with all the comparisons made to previous works, You Will Eventually Be Forgotten
is still a great record. It's a deeply flawed record that leaves a lot to be desired, but it's good enough for me to care, good enough for me to want better, good enough for me to have so much to say about it. You Will Eventually be Forgotten
is Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) at their very worst, but it's still Empire! Empire! and like an underachieving child that isn't living up to their potential musically and writes a lot of self-absorbed poetry, you still love them anyway.