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As music enthusiasts, when we talk about a band evolving it’s usually in reference to how far-removed the artist has become from their former selves. That’s not what I mean in this case with The Early November and their new album Imbue.
The original elements that made The Early November who they are, are still intact after 12+ years. Miraculously, there’s also still a spark that keeps igniting those same elements with new and evergreen results. Imbue is next level music from the long time band. It’s the essence of evolving.
I’m not quite sure how the band has remained within a constant sphere of style, while continually producing fresh content. My only guess is that lead singer Ace Enders working on multiple projects like I Can Make A Mess and other solo material has allowed him to scratch his itch for creating and being selective for which material gets selected for which band.
“I think he needs to have different outlets for different moods,” says guitarist Joe Marro. “Sometimes he writes songs for other projects that I love so much and want to steal for TEN but it just doesn’t make total sense for us. Luckily, he then goes on to write something I like even more for TEN.”
From the first moments of Imbue with “Narrow Mouth,” there’s a spine tingling feeling that this music isn’t the same music you’ve heard over the last five years. The instrumentation is heavier, there’s a rawness, and it feels as if you’ve stepped back in time with the band—yet there’s nothing technically different, of course.
After “Narrow Mouth’s” raging opener, the second track, “Better This Way,” is a swell of atmospheric rock. “Musically we wanted to write something in the quiet / loud tradition that we used to do a lot of when we we’re younger,” Marro explains.
The song—one of the first recorded for the new album and was written about two years ago—sets the stage for the rest of the record. There are hints of the past without direct references. Again, it’s an amazing balancing act to look back and know where a band has been while keeping the focus on creating something new.
picture via Blare
With the band’s last album, Marro says there was a lot of questioning what they would have sounded like if they hadn’t taken a five year break.
For Imbue, however, it was more of an attempt to write the way they did in the beginning and just get in a room and play. And yet, this isn’t 2003 anymore. The Early November is five guys entering their 30’s and facing a new era of life.
“This is not the ‘comeback’ record like In Currents was where we we’re playing catch-up on all that had changed since the record before it. With Imbue, I think we’re at the point in our bands career and personal lives where we don’t feel we have much left to prove.”
It might sound a little cocky saying there’s nothing left to prove, but Marro explains it more about being able to look back on the band’s career and assess things for what they really were and are. “I honestly feel this is the purest record we’ve ever made in that sense,” he says.
Song after song, the record should rekindle a love or connection you felt for the, often labeled, emo band. The lyrics remain as potent and honest as ever and there’s plenty of angst in the static laced songs to be entirely cathartic.
Marro says he was listening to a lot of noisy pop bands at the time of recording and it comes through in some of his guitar sounds. He also attributes Ender’s love of Pearl Jam to influencing some of the guitar tones as well. Overall though, the way Imbue sounds is mostly a reflection of how the songs should sound when played live—feedback and all.
picture via Bowery Presents
When you’re listening to Imbue and it’s coming to a close, it’s hard not to wonder if this record will be the band’s last—especially when the final song on Imbue is called, “Nothing Lasts Forever.”
The good news is it shouldn’t be. “Everyone is really busy these days but I don’t think it would stop us from making more music,” Marro says. “If anything, it would affect the touring schedule first since people can’t get away for seven weeks at a time anymore.”
Imbue isn’t a flawless album, most records in general aren’t, but it’s probably the best Early November record to-date. It’s absolutely wonderful. If you try and set aside the nostalgia attached to The Room’s Too Cold, For All Of This, The Mother…, or even In Currents, Imbue combines all the best parts while still pushing forward.
If there is a secret to creating fresh new songs that are instantly familiar, the band isn’t letting on. That’s fine, as long as they keep doing it.
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