Emblems Puts Out Emotional New Album Full of Melancholy and Fire With Everything Is Strange

4.5 out of 5 stars

Chicago based alternative rock band, Emblems, has just released a new album called Everything Is Strange, and it is a high-level, skillful and moody album full of ups and downs emotionally.

The band reminds me in a lot of ways of a mix between Minus The Bear (sound wise) and Sunny Day Real Estate (melodically and lyrically).

The album starts out with an intro song called “LO\/M” which is hard to tell what is going on other than what seems like a bit of scene setting. The lyrics are washed out a bit in the mix with the reverb and delay of the guitar effects. So, I had to reach out to the band to get clarification, and here is what the lyrics are for this 54 second song:

The last several months 
took loved ones from us
The past year and a half 
took memories from dad

It’s a grim reminder of what a global pandemic costs us in big ways and what something like Alzheimer’s disease can cost us in more direct ways.

The next song on the album “Somewhere Safe” is one of the most rocking, uptempo songs on the album. It comes out ripping, and has a bit of a hard rock vibe in places. 

The guitar work is pretty great throughout this album, but I would say on this song in particular also pay attention to the bass (and in other songs too) as it is quite good.

The song tells a bit of a tale about meeting a woman who seems abused and hoping she had gotten somewhere safe as the song title implies, but there isn’t really a clear answer which is sort of how life works. Chance encounters don’t always give us closure. Nor do we get answers when we want them.

Animals” comes up next, and it is a pretty dark song reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s grim view on society (who also coincidentally wrote an album called “Animals”). The concept here is that people are basically animals in a cage waiting to die in a bleak world of loneliness.

It’s not exactly going to get you in a super happy mood, but the song does rock in a build up and mellow out roller coaster to match the lyrics and music very well.

One of the most poetic songs on the album is “Worried Sick” the full story isn’t exactly told in the lyrics, but it seems to be about a child being out too late without letting their parents know, but there is a lot more to the story from the way it is told - and told from the perspective of the child as an adult.

The looping and masterful guitar ambient sounds in this song will have the pedal nerds really gushing as well – and that is pretty common throughout the album.

Virgo” is a really intriguing song that seems to be (I could be wrong here) spoken from the perspective of a person who is dying or has died and kind of living their last moments - this could be a loved one lost recently or a story of first-person self-reflection. I can’t quite tell as the subject seems to change in the middle of the song from someone who is going to see the dying person to, later, the perspective of that dying person.

It’s eery and feels very personal, and it uses the construct of slowing down by breathing as a metaphor for the different scenarios in which it would happen - to calm down, to die.

The next song “In Fear” has a lot of good things going for it. The ONE tiny thing I feel is a bit off (and could just be my ears on this one) is the mix of the vocals. Now, if the rest of the album had the vocals so upfront and present, it wouldn’t seem odd at all, but this song seems to clearly highlight them more than the rest of the album. Not complaining. It is just something I feel is going on in this song.

That said, the song is pretty cool, and has some rad bass going through out and a cool breakdown towards the end of the song that makes it one of the more attention grabbing songs on the album, and it is an incredible example of writing out a moment in time where fear strikes and reliving that fear to tell about it.

My favorite song on the album is “Out to Sea” which is just a great self-reflection song and the chorus is so goddamn good that it is hard to turn this song down. It’s a volume cranker, for sure.

The lyrics of the chorus really represent a lot of what the album is trying to say as well from what I can tell:

I’m out to sea in my mind
Where no one goes
Or stays afloat
I push everyone away 
during the worst times
When I see light

The last song on this 8-song album is “One Day, You Would See In Color” and the lyrics don’t offer much in the way of a story, but rather it is a glimpse into another moment in time where two people meet. It seems like there is a bit of mystery in what is happening between the two people and the rainy day encounter seems optimistic as it ends with “one day, you would see in color” as the final line (which repeats in a bit of a seemingly optimistic loop until the end of the song).

Not sure if this person was literally color blind or metaphorically blind to the happiness that can be provided in the world, but I like how the lyrics allow for that interpretation.

Overall, I gotta say, I am very impressed with the style that Emblems brings to this album. I haven’t heard their other music at this point, but it definitely makes me want to go through their catalog and check out more of their music.

There is something about the eeriness that reminds me a bit of Silversun Pickups’ early work as well, and they are one of my favorite bands ever.

Album Notes:

Sell The Heart Records | Outcast Tape Infirmary

Everything is Strange was performed by:

Matthew Stevens - Guitar/Vocals
Ian O'Brien - Drums
AJ Griffith - Bass
Jared Cummans - Guitar

Recorded and mixed at Crystall Recorders in Lombard, IL
by Kyle Ahlstrom from July 2021 to April 2022. kyleahlstrom.com

Mastered by John Naclerio at Nada Mastering. nadamastering.com

Artwork by Sarah Bogosh of Bad Ponies Illustration. sarahjbogosh.wixsite.com/badponies

Guest vocals:

  • Johanna Stevens on "One Day, You Would See in Color"
  • Nick Sintos of The Flips on "Worried Sick" and "One Day, You Would See in Color"
  • Christopher Robinson of Caterpillars on "Worried Sick" and "One Day, You Would See in Color"
  • Paul Meitz of Sterling on "One Day, You Would See in Color"
  • Elizabeth Stedman on "Virgo"