Remember that kid who never raised a sweat in high school? The one who excelled in both academic and social settings, and made it all look so easy? They never studied, never asked questions, and were always the first to hand in their tests. Well, after listening to post hardcore five-piece Emarosa’s self-titled sophomore effort, I’m pretty the Lexington Kentucky sextet’s vocalist, Johnny Craig was that kid.
Craig sounds as if exploring the entire spectrum of sound with each passing note. While Emarosa’s 2008 album, Relativity, was built around strained vocal highs in the vein of The Spill Canvas, their new effort switches gears, with Craig commanding a newfound melodic smoothness. To this end, Craig is a natural.
But much like that inherently gifted kid, Craig’s biggest virtue also serves as his biggest flaw. For his entire vocal prowess, he never feels as though he’s putting more than one foot forward. His voice may be strong, but he sings as if on autopilot, never taking a chance or pushing his limits – as if he’s content to be good rather than great. If you’ve ever listened to Anberlin then you probably already understand. None of Emarosa’s ten tracks elevate to memory or lend themselves to repeat listens. They make for good background music, but the compliments end there.
Since 2008 Emarosa has tuned down and placed a newfound emphasis on melody. In the interim between releases Craig actually tried his hand at an R&B solo project and the edgy pop punk act Isles & Glaciers, so Emarosa occupies a middle ground. Unfortunately, in this case middle also means mediocre.
There’s really no point in listening beyond opener “A Toast To The Future Kids!” – once you’ve heard one track you’ve heard them all. Every song suffers from being just too formulaic – verse, chorus, verse, repeat, and throw in a bridge here and there for good measure. Sure, with six members there’s technically always lots going on, and the band exists beyond mere power chords and simple hooks, but neither note nor lyric ever sticks beyond its momentary impression.
I’ve barely mentioned a single song in this review, and that’s intentional. Emarosa’s self titled album might be competent from a musicianship perspective, and Johnny Craig might showcase some of the tightest vocal command around, but the end result is just as vague as this review’s last 393 words. There’s very little worth commenting on or highlighting here.