empire! empire! (i was a lonely estate) - What It Takes to Move Forward
Record Label: Count Your Lucky Stars
Release Date: September 29, 2009
Let me get this out of the way: empire! empire! (i was a lonely estate)’s What it Takes to Move Forward is a sad, sad album. The music is sad, the vocals are sad, and the lyrics are sad. Yet at the same time, this is the most comforting, honest, and heartwarming album I’ve heard all year, and it is a fantastic work of art that shows just how much this small quartet from Michigan has grown.
The album opens up with "How to Make Love Stay", and from the instant you press play, you can tell what this band is all about. Vocalist Keith Latinen sings, seemingly straight from his heart, “You were so sure you found yourself / that you branded it into an oak / the one you swore reached through the sky / and swallowed the city line.” The high point of this album for me is the lyrics. Latinen is able to construct these poetic and interesting phrases without coming off as pretentious and vague. The lyrical content deals with relationships, family, friends, and even God. With so many subjects, it is hard to believe that it is pulled off as well at is.
Despite the slow, moody nature of this CD, it is not without its faster songs. Both “Keep What You Have Built Up There” and “It’s a Plague and You’re Invited” show that the band can pick up the pace with fast, yet still heart-touching anthems. These songs are unique musically too, including fast riffs, as the rest of the album is full of slower, simpler instruments. The two songs almost seem like cousins, with “It’s a Plague” being a much darker song, both lyrically and musically, and it sets the stage for songs of the same haunting nature, such as “With Your Greatest Fears Realized, You Will Not Be Comforted”.
While this record is full of successes, it still has its flaws. In a few of the songs, I find myself thinking that a certain part drags on for too long, whether it be an intro, outro, or whatever else. This is most apparent in “It Happened Because You Left”, which clocks in at eight minutes and ten seconds long, three minutes of which is an unnecessarily long intro. If you want to nitpick, you could also complain about how long some of the song titles are, the longest being “Everything is Connected and Everything Matters (a temporary solution to a permanent problem)”. Still though, the names are deep and well thought out.
In 2007 this band debuted with When the Ocean Became a Giant, and it was met with positive reviews, praising the honesty and sincerity the band offered. They improved themselves in 2008 with the Year of the Rabbit EP, which saw them honing their sound and beginning to capture their raw potential. What we have in 2009 is What it Takes to Move Forward. The music is moving, yet simple. The lyrics are dramatic, but not wordy, and the whole album is heartbreaking. It is a rare occurrence in the music world when we see a band continually improving on their previous work, especially when they play a genre of music many consider to be dead. If this CD proves anything, it is that this band does indeed know what it takes to move forward, and I’m just glad I get to watch them do so.