Words About Music
Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) “You Will Eventually Be Forgotten”
Years of tireless scientific research have been devoted to the question: What is the most emo region in the United States? We finally have an answer, folks. It’s the Midwest. States like Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota. You know, the Rust Belt. The American Midwest is equal parts consistently friendly and industrially cold. Some of the most important emo groups of the 90s, including American Football, The Promise Ring, and Braid, originated from this region. Their typically light, clean sound that focused on the sadder side of the genre serves as the main inspiration for Michigan duo Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate). Weird name, I know. The band started as a solo project by Keith Latinen in 2006, though his wife Cathy also records with him. Empire! sticks with a slower, sadder, more dynamic sound that I’d associate with the “slowcore” and “sadcore” groups like Carrisa’s Wierd, Codeine, Red House Painters, and Low. After five years of waiting for a new studio album (that’s been filled with countless EPs, splits, tours, and singles), the duo is finally back with “You Will Eventually Be Forgotten,” their first album since their 2009 debut “What It Takes to Move Forward.”
It appears that now more than ever, Empire! Empire! is just an outlet for Keith to set the saddest events that have taken place in his life to quiet-loud instrumentation. Plenty of emo bands devote plenty of songs to failed romantic encounters and breakups, and that’s certainly a great place to draw from if you’re looking to start up an emo band. But, for a band that is literally composed of a married couple that can be sort of difficult. So instead, Keith writes lyrics about the struggles he faces and has faced throughout life as a husband, son, friend, and brother. All eleven songs on this album are, presumably, autobiographical and presented in a non-linear way. We see Keith as a newlywed, as a 21-year old, as a college student, as a Boy Scout, and as a young man in a new relationship.
One of my favorite things about this band is how they’re able to take seemingly ultra-mundane events and turn them into poetic journeys through a 30-something’s history. Car accidents, funerals, carnivals, jobs, family vacations, near death experiences, mistakes; “You Will Eventually Be Forgotten” is incredibly relatable. Keith is a normal guy who has been very affected by certain events in his life, not all sad, that have driven him to write about it. One of the more uplifting moments on the album is “A Keepsake” in which his uncle finds a rare stone during a family trip to a river in Mesick. Another uplifting moment is “Foxfire” where Keith tells about how becoming an atheist led him to appreciate life more because he knew that he would one day die and that would be it. “You Will Eventually Be Forgotten” is a confessional and beautiful series of songs that, though it’s not quite as poetic and revealing as Sun Kil Moon’s “Benji,” is one of the group’s most accomplished releases yet.
If I have one complaint about this album, it’s that it focuses a bit too much on lyrics and not enough on instrumentation. What I like so much about bands like La Dispute is that the instrumentation is varied and reflects the subject matter. Some of the songs on here are a bit too similar, but ultimately this album is incredibly consistent. Yes, it focuses on lyrics a bit too much, but the lyrics on this thing are so hypnotic and well-written that it’s easy to forget that I care about what the guitars are doing. If you’re looking to hear an emo record that calls back to the classic 90s midwest sound while also being memorable, give this album a listen. Keith’s voice is an acquired taste, but hearing the way his heart breaks on songs like “If It’s Bad News, It Can Wait” and “The Promise That Life Can Go On No Matter How Bad Our Losses” makes it totally worth it.
SCORE – 8.2
FAVORITE TRACKS – Ribbon, I Was Somewhere Cold, Dark… and Lonely, We Are People Here. We Are Not Numbers, You Have to be So Much Better than You Ever Thought, Foxfire, Things Not Worth Fixing, If It’s Bad News It Can Wait, It’s So Much Darker When a Light Goes Out Than It Would Have Been If It Had Never Shone, The Promise That Life Can Go On No Matter How Bad Our Losses