Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - What It Takes to Move Forward (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)

What It Takes to Move Forward (2009)

Count Your Lucky Stars

The debut full-length from Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) retains hallmarks of the band's 2008 7", Year of the Rabbit, while adding a few necessary refinements. Basically, if you want slightly noodly and extremely earnest '90s emo seemingly built around the styles of Mineral and the Get Up Kids' "A New Found Interest in Massachusetts," albeit in a form as long-winded as one might guess by the band name, What It Takes to Move Forward will grant you just that.

Multi-instrument-wielding frontman Keith Latinen's voice cracked and croaked through some verses on Year of the Rabbit and it was a rawness that was less endearing and more just embarrassing. He's seemed to realize that vocal sincerity has its limits and has toned it down for the vast majority of this nearly hour-long album. And even when he lets loose with higher-pitched, sappy wailing ("Keep What You Have Built Up Here"), it doesn't bleed through the tune as much as it used to. Still, if anyone could provide some apt coaching, it's Look Mexico's Matt Agrella, as himself and his smoother, counterparting guest appearance just steals the spotlight in closer "An Idea Is a Greater Monument Than a Cathedral" (this is ironic being that a certain someone steals Agrella's spotlight on a song off LM's own upcoming LP).

Most of the time, Latinen's voice is reserved and meandering along with the typically personified yearning of his bandmates' buildups. As distressed and depressed as he might be through What It Takes' course, he and the rest of his band exude an incredible, indelible patience. "What Safe Means" is infused with careful strides, deliberate pauses and a slow, melodic payoff followed by a familiar set of tender, intertwining chords. "With Your Greatest Fears Realized, You Will Not Be Comforted" is an interesting standout, with Latinen going solo and adding well-integrated layers of banjo, cello, trumpet and sleigh bells while delivering another strong emotional indictment ("You wore a hand-me-down dress that never fit quite right. / Your mother's frame did not favor you.").

While What It Takes to Move Forward is as thoughtful and calculated as one might hope a band would be for their first proper LP, it's almost too so; the album could probably use a more diverse palette of guitar tones and better, more effective explosives, too. Nonetheless, what's already here is a solid, flowing and pretty pleasing tribute to its forefathers.

What Safe Means
Rally the Troops! Poke Holes in Their Defenses! Line Our Coffers with Their Coffins!
An Idea Is a Greater Monument Than a Cathedral