Review Summary: “I don’t mind where you’re going. The remedy’s the same.”
Change is something that can be difficult to deal with. Sometimes things change around us without our control and without any sort of guidance or credence. Despite this, change is inevitable in every aspect of our lives. In music particularly, artists are often critiqued for having changed musical direction and style, but sometimes that change can be for the better.
If there’s anybody who can tell you about change, it’s current Emarosa frontman and singer, Bradley Walden. After the departure of former frontman Jonny Craig and the large following and success that the band had amassed from him and his crooning, powerful voice, Emarosa had been left with a looming and constant shadow of judgement on their inevitable vocalist change. With the loss of Craig came waves of people who would constantly compare them to their past: "Jonny's voice was better" and "This isn't Emarosa anymore" being among the most common arguments. After realizing these pressuring criticisms following the release of their last album Versus,
the first with Walden. Emarosa decided to change record labels, change producers, change their signature sound and start anew. With this came a revitalization of the band, and the birth of 131.
Emarosa prompts you to throw out all expectations that you may have held about them in the past by completely changing their genre. This album is the furthest Emarosa has ever been from Post-Hardcore music, nearly to the point where they can barely be identified as such anymore. 131
instead leans on the band's former influences of traditional blues and soul and mixes it with an alternative rock sound. Even though 131
is far different than any other album Emarosa has released, it’s also in some ways very similar to, and feels like, a natural progression from their self-titled record. It’s very vibrant in its influences in pop and gospel with intense and soaring harmonies, just as that record was. Only here, these influences are fleshed out and brought to life in a way that is diverse and fits every band member perfectly.
Each song on 131
has soaring melodies, catchy hooks and lyrics that tread a near perfect balance between personal and relatable. On top of this each melody and song is performed excellently by each of the band positions. The drumming is a huge step up from Versus,
sounding a lot fuller and more natural and lead guitar riffs compliment the hooks and Bradley’s vocals well, progressing and developing through each song. Every song on 131
is diverse, well structured and fitting for the album as a whole.
is beautiful. It’s angelic, melancholic and celebratory all in one. Tracks like “Hurt,” “Sure” and “Cloud 9” embrace this new gospel inspired sound that is full of energy. Other songs such as “Young Lonely,” “One Car Garage,” and “Blue” show a fully realized RnB sound that was once briefly explored in their previous work. Each song presents real emotion that is very insecure, vulnerable and conveys genuine humanity. Whether it be on the beautiful duet on “Never” or the cries for help on the opening track “Hurt” you see a very personal and powerful sort of artistry that is presented in an endearing way.
As an album, 131
feels more like an experience than it does a collection of certain songs. Each song links together in meaning, sound and purpose and every song gains a different context when listening to the album in full. When learning about the stories behind each of these tracks and piecing each together, a myriad of different emotions resonate through each moment of the album.
Hearing Walden welp the lines “Babe, I feel a miracle fade from you.”
on the song “Miracle” and then realizing that the same lost life being lamented here was being mourned during the song “Sure” is chilling and unnerving, especially with the choir and opera esque themes laden in both of these tracks. It also shows how well this album links together these personal and heartbreaking themes.
Whether it’s the topic of miscarriage in the songs “Sure” and “Miracle;” Depression and the fear of being alone in “Hurt,” “Young Lonely” and “Blue;” Or the perspectives of a complicated relationship that bleeds through the tracks “Helpless,” “Porcelain” and “Never,” each song presents itself as a chapter through the journey that is 131.
This is also further cemented by the closing track as the album concludes on the highest and most cohesive note possible with the song “Re,” a track that puts together different parts of each track on the record in a grand, epic and coherent end, giving every song it’s moment to shine and bringing the album together as one whole unit.
Criticisms one may find while listening to 131
lie heavily in the production quality. Some of the mixing in the rhythm guitars is muddy and it can make them difficult to hear on certain tracks like “Miracle,” and “One Car Garage,” and the lo-fi sound implemented in the production can be distracting to a trained ear, but it seldom takes away from the experience as a whole. This album also isn’t very single oriented. No one track seems to stand above others and each song loses some excitement and meaning when listened to individually. You’ll not find a “Past Should Stay Dead,” or “A Toast to the Future Kids!” level of individual singles. This means that each song is dependent on the album in full for it’s meaning.
Even with these criticisms, this is Emarosa at their finest. It’s not only them distancing themselves from everything they’ve ever established, but it’s also a return to form of the level of refreshment and innovation they were once heralded for in the rock scene. With the ability to create an album that is both complex and diverse in its identification and sound, they’ve shown to be masters of a new musical forte. They've changed and it's for the better. Make no mistake: This is their best album.