Review: Marietta, ‘As It Were’
In the most Beyonce-esque move in their careers, Marietta has blown the door wide open on anticipation by just going forward and dropping a bomb on us. I may never get over the fact that their announcement for ‘As It Were’ was made a mere week preceding its official release. In a manic drool over the single “Pony Up!!” and the ridiculously hilarious video of bicycle antics which accompanied it, I frantically emailed Soft Speak’s press contact and realized that this massive endeavor of a second LP is one the band has taken full responsibility on. For such a fledgling band barely out of college (the final two members graduated along with me in the Class of 2015), it’s truly a marvel to witness firsthand how talented and prepared Marietta are to completely take over the emo scene, and not just the one surrounding Philadelphia.
For me, the patient and brooding wait since Marietta’s last record (one of my favorite albums of all time) has been both welcomed and loathed. I say this because I can empathize with their situations in life; being a college student and trying to achieve success in a band is not an easy task by any means, so even though there was almost a full 36 months between “Fuck, Dantooine Is Big” and “Old Joe” (off of the Strength In Weakness split courtesy of Lame-O Records this past February), and another six months until “Pony Up!!” was cleared for streaming, I’m willing to cut them a bunch of slack because of their immense amount of talent. In the back of my mind, I sensed that something new was coming from their Drexel-based camp, and with the slew of announcements for the latter half of 2015 coming in like wildfire, it was only a matter of time before the levy broke for Marietta’s newest record.
“Maybe I’m just ancient to my old friends, or maybe I’m just making things up. But I don’t really think I could” goes the chorus to the closing track “Brains.” The band has always maintained a low profile when it comes to volume, opting to utilize distortion more sparingly than you’d expect given the level of attention each lyric gets, but the addition of (not one, but two!) acoustic songs is a no-brainer for Marietta. “Ilai, Eli, a Lie” and “Brains” serve as a means to end each side of the record, and both do so flawlessly, with the former including some piano snippets while the latter touts harmonies courtesy of some of the bands’ female friends, adding a whole new dimension to the already brilliant track. It’s in these somber moments where Marietta can truly shine, as they are what I’d consider the poster child for 90s-influenced modern emo music, emitting waves of Cap’n Jazz and American Football at every turn.
I’m a sucker for self-song references, but it’s rare to find them outside of pop punk (their usual resting place). So when Old Joe makes his triumphant return, scoring a cameo on “Are You Afraid of God? No, But I’m Afraid of You,” you could say that I was a tad excited to get more of a glimpse of the character. The result is a spiraling and contorting masterpiece of a song that ends in a fury of stacked vocals: “Lighting my lighter in my pocket, reminding me that I’m here/Am I imaginary, or is my voice not loud enough?” Tucked away on the b-side of the album is a song that will certainly delight OG Marietta fans, namely “United Away,” originally on their demo back in 2012. Getting a reworked and remastering treatment, I’m glad the band finally found a place for it on ‘As It Were.’
As my frantic search for the most memorable and melodic lyric on an album continues, I think I’m one step closer thanks to “Horse Tattoo.” The song seems destined to be a crowd favorite from its onset, and the chorus is equally as perfect and relatable: “Shoes don’t last so long in the city, gravel tearing at our souls.” Definitely opting for a more melodic approach to song-writing this time around, the band has come up with some of their best lyrics to date, while still maintaining their affluence in the guitar riff department. Andrew, Ethan, Evan, and Ben have certainly outdone themselves this time around, especially when you consider the sonic beauty that is “Destination Unknown (Reprise).” The song conveys such a power and essence that is impossible to not notice, like it’s hard for me to describe, but as soon as the track kicked in, I knew immediately that it would be an absolute banger. And it proves true every listen.
My one singular complaint, which isn’t really an issue of distaste, is that the horns found during the brilliance of the middle-eight section of “Chase, I Hardly Knew Ya” are gone from this album. But what is to stay are the hilarious samples of movie quotes, like the one found preceding “Hawaii 5-0 Noseblunt,” courtesy of Jack Black’s description of the drum solo found in the titular show in School of Rock. This combination of serious subject matter found in the lyrics and wistful young-adult antics follows in the footsteps of their influences without a doubt. The beauty of Marietta’s brand of emo is that they’re not afraid of making a name for themselves in the face of being heralded as the next Promise Ring, which if you really think about it, is actually the best case scenario for the young band.
After such an amazing debut album in ‘Summer Death,’ one I continuously note as one of my all time favorite records, it’d be easy to simply just compare track-by-track and see how well ‘As It Were’ holds up. But that takes so much out of what could be a truly phenomenal record in it’s own right. The members of Marietta were a lot different back in 2013, and the stories they have to tell in a span of two years could take them three albums worth of material for all we know. So if I sat here and meticulously weighed the merits of one album against each other and compared, it’d be a downright sin. But for me to calculate and stumble over little details that makes each album special and so influential, then I’d feel like I was doing the music justice. And for the record, I can’t choose which album I enjoy more. 5/5