The Early November
Lilac


3.4
great

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
October 2nd, 2019 | 38 replies


Release Date: 09/25/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I can make a mess like nobody's business

Ace Enders is one of the industry's greatest songwriters, when he can just get out of his own way. From whiny 2000s pop-punk to albums which flit through electronic-tinged pop, indie, lo-fi ballads and rockers without missing a step - not to mention the spoken word/pop-punk/alt-country triple concept album he dropped on the way, surely the most ambitious 2000s project in this genre that no one seems to talk about. Enders can seemingly write a classic album in his sleep, but getting them out to the public is another matter. Whether that's all the promised tracks that never eventuated, songs confusingly re-recorded three or four times across the already unclear lines between The Early November, I Can Make a Mess... and his solo material, or in Lilac's case, delays and strange production choices which contribute to a feeling of incompleteness. Lilac began as a dark record about a family member's addiction before Enders pushed it back to apply a lighter touch; even if you don't know this specific piece of backstory, it's not hard to identify the result in the finished album, a confused and confusing piece of work which pulls itself (and the listener) in disparate directions.

Before that happens there are some honest-to-god Enders classics here, songs which see him take the effervescent melodies of "Close to You" or "Harmony" into the territory of outright indie pop, a pool he's been on the edge of for some time without fully diving in. "Perfect Sphere (Bubble)" is proof positive of the man's generational talent with a melody, especially in taking a concept that brushes up against silliness and grounding it inside an utterly gorgeous arrangement. "Ave Maria" is a late addition to the album, one which sticks out somewhat amongst the melancholy concept songs, but it's also utter pop perfection in three minutes and change. Of what remains of the original album, the closing two songs stand as deeply moving pieces which hit upon some of the realest shit Enders has written. "Our Choice" is a terrific climactic moment, an emotional epic which stands shoulder-to-shoulder with cuts like "I Don't Care" and "A Bigger Meaning", while the album reaches its denouement with "The Lilac", a heartrending lo-fi ballad which claustrophobically places the listener directly in the headspace of the person suffering from addiction: "The needle in my hand is coming down... drilling through my chest, but it's oil they found."

But The Early November in all their storied career have never fumbled the opening and closing of an album – The Room's Too Cold's bookends, in particular, stacking up with the genre's best. Lilac lives up to that standard, but finds itself losing focus in the middle stretch. Otherwise good songs "Make My Bed" and "You Own My Mind" get bogged down in filler moments, an infuriating whistled bridge and numbingly repetitive hook, respectively. But it's right after "Ave Maria" caps off a stunning first act that Lilac starts to fall apart. "Hit By a Car (In Euphoria)" is in theory a solid single, a classic slowburn verse exploding into a huge hook in that way Enders has been perfecting since "Decoration"; the issue in practice being the utter messiness of it all, with an ill-fitting rhythm grating against the chorus melody, a clattering acoustic guitar taking up far too much space in the mix, and a truly fucking strange vocoder backing vocal. This is small change compared to the big reveal in "Comatose", which hits after a surprisingly poor verse vocal; this is simply one of the most indifferently mixed hooks imaginable, one which manages to suck all emotion out of the melody and divert all attention to another ridiculous backing vocal. "Fame" is not all that bad in such dubious company, but here you really start to feel the weight of another last-minute pop addition to the album: with a repetitive guitar strum and simplistic thoughts on the industry (as compared to the brilliantly-written and thoughtful conceptual bent of "Digital Age"), the song feels largely like filler. It's a bridge too far when the album really just needs to recover from some of the most undercooked and messy work ever from Enders' pen.

It does recover, but from a songwriter who delivered a comeback as consistent and coherent as In Currents, it's hard not to feel the spectres of different albums that could have been weighing heavy on Lilac. You get the sense that Enders has vaults upon vaults of stunning songs in various stages of completion; finishing them is one thing, but chiselling them into an album that rises above the sum of its parts is quite another. In Currents and The Mother, The Mechanic and The Path pulled it off beautifully, where Imbue and The Room's too Cold came pretty damn close. In this discography, Lilac goes down with something of a bitter taste, the sting of something truly exceptional just on the periphery that the music hasn't quite grasped. But when your lesser efforts can still cut as clean and deep as Enders can, with a song like "Perfect Sphere" or "The Lilac", that's a sign that sometimes a bunch of great songs is enough.



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user ratings (27)
3.3
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 2nd 2019


42519 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

just gonna briefly plug that Clear Eyes Fanzine EP, which I only just discovered and goes all the fuckin way in https://cleareyesfanzine.bandcamp.com/releases

Digging: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen

NorwichScene
October 2nd 2019


2968 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Brilliant review Rowan!

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 2nd 2019


32423 Comments


great review
never been into these guys but what I heard of this was pretty middling. nothing bad just nothing to get excited about either.

Digging: Jimmy Eat World - Surviving

onionbubs
October 2nd 2019


11943 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

really great review albums alright but definitely their worst. got some really great songs on it tho

Digging: The Menzingers - Hello Exile

cfbassist
October 2nd 2019


365 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The good songs are soo good, but the ones that miss are so forgettable. Ave maria and hit by a car are my standouts.

Cormano
October 2nd 2019


1652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ah sweet I thought about reviewing this one but haven't even listened to the record in full



great stuff dude



"not to mention the spoken word/pop-punk/alt-country triple concept album he dropped on the way, surely the most ambitious 2000s project in this genre that no one seems to talk about."



this right here, thank you. that record is the best thing to come out of the drive-tru records catalog and simply one of the most ambitious from this scene, still blows my mind to this day

onionbubs
October 2nd 2019


11943 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah the mother the mechanic and the path is phenomenal and idk why i dont hear more people talk about it or this band in general

Feather
October 2nd 2019


5380 Comments


Absolutely love the opener

Feather
October 2nd 2019


5380 Comments


"not to mention the spoken word/pop-punk/alt-country triple concept album he dropped on the way, surely the most ambitious 2000s project in this genre that no one seems to talk about."

What is this in reference to? I am veryyyy intrigued.

onionbubs
October 2nd 2019


11943 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

its in reference to the mother the machine and the path, their second album

Feather
October 2nd 2019


5380 Comments


Thank you Onion, listening now

onionbubs
October 2nd 2019


11943 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah each disc has kind of a different thing going on btw so the whole thing isnt consistently like "spoken word/pop-punk/alt-country", that mostly applies to the last disc. other two discs are still very good tho

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 2nd 2019


25000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

lovey review, Row



couldn't agree more with pretty much all of this. thankfully the good songs are really good

onionbubs
October 2nd 2019


11943 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah im thinking of bumping it up bc of the opening three songs (couldve been 4 if the rhythm under the chorus of hit by a car wasnt so awkward) and closer being as good as they are but idk gonna have to listen a little more

Cormano
October 2nd 2019


1652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

idk what to make out of it yet I mean I enjoyed it but I'm not sure if this very pristine and polished sound they are going for here really works for the best, anyways I've always prefered their punkier stuff so I'm biased

melodies here are fucking killer though

Hawks
October 2nd 2019


73696 Comments


Love this band. Gonna have to get on this soon.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 2nd 2019


42519 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

that record is the best thing to come out of the drive-tru records catalog and simply one of the most ambitious from this scene, still blows my mind to this day




it absolutely blew my mind as a youngun when it dropped, especially the plot twist at the end of The Path hahah. For All of This was the first CD I bought with my own money so I always had an attachment to these guys but I never remotely thought they'd be as good as they are now



melodies here are fucking killer though




yes they are. that "wakin up in the sun, sandpaper tongue, red stripe across my back" hook >>>>>

dmathias52
October 2nd 2019


948 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I've never listened to any of Ace Enders' stuff, which seems ridiculous since he seems so up my lane. Across all his projects, where's the place to start?

Digging: Bayside - Interrobang

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 2nd 2019


42519 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

probably The Room's Too Cold > In Currents to start



if you want a slightly heavier IC from there, go Imbue, if you want more TRTC style pop-punk, go For All of This. hope that helps

DreamAgain
October 2nd 2019


1120 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Some great songs on here. Would have been a great I can make a mess album but kind of disappointing for TEN tbh. Feels like ace basically did all the work here



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