The Early November - In Currents (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Early November

In Currents (2012)


The new wave of emo was beginning to break by the time the Early November dropped The Room's Too Cold in October 2003, but the band's profile didn't suffer as a result. TRTC was, and is, an important record for a lot of people in much the same way as Brand New's Deja Entendu, released a few months prior and a staggeringly crucial benchmark for the scene that still resonates nearly a decade later–even if it's a much weirder record when stacked side-by-side with The Room's Too Cold. That record was a prime example of how to write and perform lush, heartfelt rock music that wasn't overly banal or unnecessarily meddlesome. TEN's new album In Currents–their first since 2006's ambitious-yet-bloated triple album The Mother, the Mechanic, and the Path–has plenty of nods to beats covered on their debut, but without the "time and place" feel that permeates The Room's Too Cold and a more mature, well-rounded disposition.

The Early November continue to have a penchant for lush arrangements and soundscapes on In Currents, recorded at frontman Ace Enders' The Living Room Recording in Hammonton, N.J. "A Stain on the Carpet" opens the album with ambient noise, piano and Enders' vastly improved vocals, before building up and crashing into a more mid-tempo base–the music and Enders' singing style seem to brim with hopefulness, making for a neat juxtaposition with obviously sullen lyrics, as in the intro: It was a long night drinking whiskey / And I don't drink so my head is turned around / After a long flight to another city / I can't think cause my head is off the ground / But that night came falling down. Similar dynamics are used on the title track and the outstanding "Tell Me Why," a song that features what's easily the most immense chorus the band have written to date, and one that perhaps best highlights Enders' improvements as a singer from a green, vulnerable kid in the band's infancy to a far more assured, confident frontman in their present and, hopefully, future.

The rest of the Early November are at the top of their games on In Currents as well. Drummer Jeff Kummer expertly navigates some deceptively difficult tempo changes on "Close To You" and "Guilt & Swell;" guitarist Joe Marro adds an extra layer to their sound with immense piano parts throughout the album, but most notably on "Close To You" and the driving "Wearing a Tie;" lead guitarist Phil Lugg shows off his chops in an almost Wyld Stallyns-esque fashion on epic closer "Call off the Bells" and "Like a Kid Again," a song that will likely startle a few listeners at first, given its position on the album immediately following acoustic track "That's Not Your Real Name." Consider that your warning.

Speaking of acoustic material, In Currents has plenty of that, too: "Digital Age" is an appropriately stripped-down commentary on the disposable music culture so prevalent with the millennials, and the sweetness of "Smell of this Place" will likely be too much for some, but it's well-played and earnest enough.

As a reintroduction, In Currents is exactly the record the Early November needed to make. It shows they're cognizant of their past while also showing that indeed, bands like this can age gracefully without sacrificing artistic integrity or alienating their fervent fanbase. It's a good starting point for new listeners and a record around which old-school fans will rally, which is difficult to accomplish.