Artist: The Early November
Album: In Currents
Label: Rise Records
After taking a prolonged (and premature) hiatus from the music world, The Early November mark their return with an album of beautiful highs and crushing lows. In Currents is clearly a labour of love, something sweet and deftly understated, though it waivers towards the end and becomes a little too forced to really convince. The album mixes grace with spirit and sumptuously interweaves classical elements and strings to add light to the main instruments. It’s a rewarding listen, although Ace Enders’ vocals can overdo it at times, but considering an absence of almost six years the band displays impressive confidence and togetherness.
In Currents is a largely slow-burning affair, showing no sign of nervousness or uncertainty even after such a lengthy absence. The band focuses on mood and atmosphere, illustrating with their romanticised opener “A Stain on the Carpet” a confidence and serenity that pervades the album. Instead of looking to seize attention, the song is emotive and brooding, emphasising intensity over impact. It is quite measured as an opening song but a just introduction to what follows. “Frayed in Doubt” is gruff and involving, with a careful rhythm ensuring everything stays focused. Enders is a charismatic frontman and provides a riveting and aggressive lead. Yet, for all the intricacies of these tracks, their languid pace means that the album feels like it’s still edging into life. “In Currents” is the first song to really add flair and momentum. The vocals soar, meaning it sounds slightly unfocused but fresher than its predecessors. The guitar harmonies are gorgeous, adding a dreamier vibe and evoking a sense of thoughtfulness or reflection.
“Digital Age” is a standout – an acoustic effort, resigned and destitute but with a raw and moving performance from Enders. The sparseness of sound makes it stand out from the others and its simplicity is absorbing and moving. On tracks like this, the band display a flair for subtlety and attention to detail that gives their music a unique quality. That said, they don’t always match it with eloquence elsewhere, and this is where In Currents falters. “Close to You” for instance opens beautifully with a piercing core of violins adding a ghostly presence to the music. The rest of the song lets it down however, with the guitars and vocals taking too brash an approach and drowning out the delicacy of the strings. It seems to degenerate into something disappointingly banal after such a promising beginning. “Guilt & Swell” suffers from Enders’ crudeness – in slowing and emphasising everything so insistently, the song comes to sound slightly try-hard and pretentious.
“That’s Not Your Real Name” is another acoustic effort, though not quite as compelling as its forebear. It’s a pleasant listen until the vocal over-exertion makes it lose its way. Similarly, “Call Off the Bells” is overwhelmed by potent singing, including a backing chorus that veers on the side of excessive. It does, however, have a pristine sense of occasion and minimal set-up that works sublimely, and the bareness of the sound makes the last-minute surge of instruments sound grimly triumphant.
In Currents marks The Early November’s return with discretion as opposed to grandeur. It is, mostly, a luminous listen and doesn’t vie for your attention the way you might expect. The band is a little too reliant on stirring vocal performances which overpower the subtle charms elsewhere, but this is skilled and vivid nonetheless, and heralds the great things still to come.
Review written by Grace Duffy