Review: The Early November, ‘Imbue’
No stranger to the limelight, Ace Enders and company of the Early November, are one of the forerunners from the Drive-Thru Records era of the early 2000s; finding success amongst the likes of The Starting Line and Hidden in Plain View (the latter also sharing a home state with TEN, my lovely New Jersey). Amidst the rise of their debut ‘The Room’s Too Cold’, the band found themselves on top of the alternative-pop-punk scene. Not one to simply accept success, the band needed to push the envelop and pursued a triple disc concept album in ‘The Mother, the Mechanic, the Path’. Despite the album’s mostly positive reviews, the recording process took its toll on the band, who would go on indefinite hiatus the following year. It wasn’t until 2011 Ace and Jeff finally got the band back together for their stellar return ‘In Currents’. The craziest part about this is how relevant The Early November are now; in fact it’s pretty true about all of the Drive-Thru and Triple Crown bands nowadays, but it’s still amazing how a hiatus can revitalize and rejuvenate a band.
Enter 2015 and now The Early November are back with (what I believe) is their strongest album to date. ‘Imbue’ has some of the catchiest and biggest choruses I’ve ever heard from the band, and it seems that all of the stars from the early 2000s are returning to form, all-the-while keeping fresh and bringing new ideas and sounds. It’s gorgeous to see, and something that new bands should look to as both inspiration and a reason to promote true musical identity in a scene that is quick to pigeonhole with weak stereotypes.
In short, ‘Imbue’ kicks ass. It’s wonderfully produced and recorded, and Ace specifically made sure of this in his Living Room studio; splitting up the process to allow songs to create their own identity instead of cohesively crafting an album together in one-go. I kind of envy that personally, as most of the songs I try (read: TRY) to write in an album form sort of fall short and begin to sound almost exactly the same. Due to this clever recording choice, TEN’s latest effort is also the most unique of the bunch, as every song sounds sonically different from the next. See “Magnolia” and “I Don’t Care” as clear examples of this. It’s particularly nice to also see some varied vocal styles on the record. For a second I didn’t realize I was hearing Ace’s very defined voice in two very distinct vocal ways: see “Narrow Mouth” and “Better This Way”. For a band who’s been active as long as The Early November (since 1999), it’s rare you see such differentiation just on a single album, let alone 4 truly spectacular ones.
The highlight of the album is in it’s final three tracks. After a soft-spot in “Harmony” (which provides a nice medium ~harmony~ to the record, and supplies some of its most soothing lyrics such as “you like humming/the sad songs/bringing up misery/you want”), TEN brings the one-two punch of “Cyanide” and “I Don’t Care”. It starts with a lone dissonant rhythm guitar intro, soon accompanied by a hummed lead, cutting and brooding into the mix as Ace sings away (don’t believe in depression/I’m just gutting myself to prove that I’m different). What follows next is a musical adventure – to put it cooly. “I Don’t Care” starts off innocent enough, with a whimsical delivery and some stray leads before exploding into a warming and a huge chorus, probably the biggest on the record. It almost feels as if ‘Imbue’ should’ve ended with this track, as the ending is just powerful. But we’re granted one final song before the story ends: in “Nothing Lasts Forever”, a haunting Ace-lead finale showcasing the best The Early November can bring. It’s also a nice bookend to the accompany astounding opener-and-single “Narrow Mouth”.
Before I leave you to explore The Early November’s latest record (and one of their strongest), I’d like to praise the immense musicianship the band has held, and still holds true to this release. Every part about ‘Imbue’ just clicks, whether is the formulation of a melody over a building chorus or the ambient drum sounds and constant flow of a bassline. The most impressive part about the band is their longevity and ability to perform under pressure. I’d also like to make a special notice about “The Negatives”: a song that may go under most people’s radars. It’s surprisingly addictive in its lyricism of the brilliant chorus and repetition at the close of the track: cause you’re addicted/to feeling sorry for yourself/I need a woven thread between your body and guilt/and made a blanket of your scars/and you just wanna feel warm. I too want to feel warm, Ace, it’s been so fucking cold this winter.
In a similar way to Hit the Lights’s newest record ‘Summer Bones’ (read the review here!), ‘Imbue’ serves as The Early November’s return to form. In both a testament and statement, Ace and company have crafted a modern album that traces back on the early 2000s roots. It’s a true collaboration between the old TEN and the new TEN. Personally, I’m growing to love the newer side of them even more than before. Their hiatus definitely, 100%, helped form what is now, properly: The Early November. 4.5/5