Album: We Do What We Want
Genre: Hard Rock
Label: Tooth & Nail
Without dramatic lineup changes, nude photo leaks, tell-all blog posts or laptop scams, Emery have always seemed to stay out of the spotlight in the contemporary rock scene. Instead, the Seattle-based quartet have spent their time focusing on what they do best – making melodic post-hardcore that is truly unparalleled by their peers.
With their unique versatility and desire to evolve on each release, it’s hard to tell what the next Emery album will sound like. 2004′s The Weak’s End, a defining album of this genre, showed off the band’s impeccable songwriting ability and highlighted the band’s not one, not two, but three powerhouse vocalists. Emery followed up with the slightly more accessible The Question in 2005 and the more experimental I‘m Only a Man in 2007. Though some fans worried that Man was a misstep in the wrong direction, the band brought back their signature sound in 2009′s …In Shallow Seas We Sail.
Following on the heels of great success with Shallow Seas, lead vocalist Toby Morrell announced that Emery’s next record would be their heaviest yet. In less than five seconds of the first track, you can tell that this mission was accomplished.
In fact, when We Do What We Want kicks off with “The Cheval Glass,” it’s nearly impossible to tell that this is the same Emery we used to know. The screams of vocalist Josh Head over the band’s breakdowns make this track sound more like The Devil Wears Prada until Morrell enters with the melody and the hooks.
Changing styles on the drop of a hat, “The Cheval Glass” never sits in one place long enough to stay coherent, and that’s what makes it so refreshing. Moreso on this record than ever before, Emery challenge their listeners to keep up with their musical spontaneity and will constantly have them wondering, “What’s coming next, romantic lyrics or a raging breakdown?”
Second track “Scissors” keeps the momentum going with pummeling drums and more charging guitars. With beautiful harmonies, gut-wrenching screams and sweeping riffs, “Scissors” is truly Emery at their finest. “The Anchors,” for the most part, serves as a bit of a break from the more heavy stylings of the first two tracks, as the guitars open up as Morrell takes over the majority of the vocals.
Fans of Shallow Seas are sure to love the progression of tracks 4, 5 and 6. The album sails through the brighter, sing-a-long track “The Curse of Perfect Days” and the more aggressive “You Wanted It” and “I’m Not Here for Rage, I’m Here for Revenge.” All three tracks are classic Emery – full of hooks, biting lyrics and injections of bitterness.
“Daddy’s Little Peach” is completely different from anything else on the album. A balancing act, this track alternates between extremely minimalistic music with soft vocals and heavy choruses backed by crunchy synths.
“Addicted to Bad Decisions” is more classic Emery, with a Morrell frantically singing the bridge, “I just can’t stand the thought of you this way/ so I said the things I thought would make you stay/but I was wrong, I was wrong, I was wrong.”
It may seem strange that Emery’s heaviest album to date ends with two acoustic tracks, but they’re a welcome breather after the hard-hitting eight tracks before them. “I Never Got to See the West Coast” opens with Morrell tenderly asking, “If I could just kill myself, would it also kill the remorse?” Somber closing track “Fix Me” is just as gentle. The instrumentation of both tracks build gradually to Death Cab for Cutie-style tunes, as Morrell’s voice stays consistently light and vulnerable.
Though Emery lost an impressive vocalist in Devin Shelton prior to recording, the album doesn’t suffer without him. Emery have once again proven that they are capable of evolving their sound while remaining true to their roots, a skill that very few bands have. We Do What We Want may not be every Emery fan’s favorite record, but it is inarguably a beautiful, emotional and aggressive piece of art.
Review written by: Rebecca Frank