Album Review: Emarosa - 'Peach Club'

30 January 2019 | 2:01 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

A wonderful metamorphosis.

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So, it's happened once again. A band that has long been adored in the alternative music scene suddenly does a complete 180 with their sound and leaves fans shocked and confused by sprucing things up with pop aesthetics and plenty of 80's synths. In 2019, this isn’t an unusual occurrence, however. When I describe to you a scenario like that, you probably thought of a number of bands that have gone beyond their early years sonically speaking. Bring Me The Horizon, Thrice, Storm The Sky, and Hundredth - the list just goes on and on. These are bands who built up reputations in their respective heavier genres and then decided, seemingly out of the blue, to flip everything completely on its head. For better or for worse, depending on how open-minded you personally are or aren't.

This is also the route that now-former post-hardcore faves, Emarosa, have chosen to go with their stunning new album, 'Peach Club'. It's a terrific alt-pop body of work that's informed by artists like Bruno Mars, Prince, Strawberry Girls, and The 1975 than the likes of Dance Gavin Dance or other similar post-hardcore acts. However, unlike other artists who make drastic changes and thus kill off the dreams for a large portion of their fan base (lookin' at you, Suicide Silence), Emarosa has pulled off their pop metamorphosis incredibly well. They've completely nailed this new sound with their latest batch of fresh, honest and vibrant material. 'Peach Club' really does feel like the album that they were always meant to create. Some will piss and moan about the band "selling out" and "RIP Emarosa", but that's just pathetically short-sighted. As those are the same people who haven't enjoyed a Thrice record in about ten or so years because it's the not same old hardcore punk release as their first few LPs; the same people who STILL whinge about BMTH not being a metal band anymore. Yet this isn't some cheap synth-pop release nor are the very men who made it creatively dead either. On the contrary, I don't think Emarosa have ever sounded and felt this alive and this invigorated!

Getting right to the actual songs, 'Peach Club' doesn’t waste your time, as it knows you came to here party. Kicking off with the soulful licks and energetic bounce of the banging 'Givin’ Up', it boasts some deliciously funky guitars and danceable bass lines that create an undeniable groove, also reaching amazing heights with a killer saxophone solo too. This track is the most upbeat and poppy slice that Emarosa has to offer listeners here, seeing the band put their best foot forward for the introduction of album number five. No doubt why it was chosen as the record's colourful lead single. The huge sound of 'Givin' Up' also showcases the absolutely stellar mix that bolsters each and every noticeable inch of this hot record. Seriously, what a quality production job! Courtney Ballard (Waterparks, I The Mighty) has crushed it here, giving the band an immaculate production foothold to stand atop of.

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However, this first track leads straight into its musically polar opposite, 'Don’t Cry', a melancholic slow-burner featuring perhaps my favourite chorus on the entire album: "When you can't feel nothin' and it's not so bad/Maybe all you needed was a better man/So don't cry, don't cry/Won't be the last time." Despite what 'Givin’ Up' would lead most listeners to believe, the majority of this new album actually takes after 'Don’t Cry' instead, sounding and feeling quite melancholic and brooding at times. More so rather than boisterous and happily upbeat nature that it's opener so confidently displays in light of artists like Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars. The rockier, hard-hitting 'Hell Of It' most certainly included too.

For instance, 'Comfortable' is quiet and spacey, making the listener feel as if they are floating in some kind of personalized, poppy cosmos. Album highlight 'xo' is a completely stripped down track, only featuring a lone guitar and Bradley Walden’s angelic, soothing vocals melodies throughout its runtime. Bradley makes this cut his bitch as he vulnerably shouts “how was I so wrong?” during the song's impeccable chorus, with such a powerful tenor range as this record sees him flex even harder into his falsetto too. The guy is easily one of the best vocalists in this scene right now, and you cannot change my mind. 'Peach Club' is a fitting step-forward for not just the frontman's voice but also the band's sound too. I can't personally think of another artist who's done this stylistic transformation better than what Emarosa have done here. Again, what a record!

[caption id="attachment_1104743" align="aligncenter" width="760"] Emarosa, 2019. [/caption]

Moving on, the bubbly vibes of 'IW2DWY' ("I want to die with you") almost make you feel like you’re listening to something that's genuinely happy, but the sorrowful lyrics tell a completely different story. With one of the album’s deceptively catchy chorus, you may find yourself singing back, “I could fall apart right now/but I want to die with you” with a gleeful smile on your face and not even realize. This whole LP is slammed full of some of the best hooks and refrains Emarosa have ever penned to date.

Tapping deeper into the album's feelings of desperation and solemness is closer, 'Wait, Stay', which continues the record's trend of engrossing melancholia tones with great hooks. With its subtle guitar melodies guiding the album on home in perhaps the saddest method possible. This track also does a wonderful job summing up the albums overarching theme of holding onto relationship strings that are perhaps better left to fray. “How dare you stay, I’m not for you/Turn away my love, I’m not for you,Bradley openly pleads hard on this final track. It's all gripping stuff! In general, 'Peach Club' has a real way of connecting with you. Synth-pop exterior or not, you cannot logically say that this a shallow, vapid, or dishonest record. Well, you could, but you'd be wrong.

Of course, the classic trick of "happy music, sad lyrics" is a staple approach for countless artists - take the entire genre of pop-punl or the last Paramore album, for example. Yet Emarosa makes it work and also make it feel so natural with the sights and sounds of 'Peach Club'. The lyricism behind 'Peach Club' comes from a place of internal conflict, at times expressing feelings of love and admiration for the very person it was written about. Yet other times, there's this struggle to come to terms with the fact that this pair may not be right for one another, thus creating the issue of how that romance proceeds and how it's likely to end. This tone ties in with the vibrant nature of the music and the album art: feeling bright and happy, yet also sad and glum simultaneously throughout. This is an album for both bright summer days and for cold, winter nights alike.

In digging deeper to the context behind the emotional roller-coaster that is this well-written alt-pop record, it deals with a previous relationship that Bradley was apart of. One that I believe ended just before this new record started to be pieced together. Yet the singer nobly never once paints himself as the victim here, as he explores the many grey-area dynamics and feelings of that relationship and how it just didn't work out in the end, sadly. Which is a major factor in what makes 'Peach Club' not only so goddamn honest and emotive, but also so enthralling too.

'Peach Club' is what happens when everything in an album's creation goes right. There is an overwhelming vision that Emarosa was aiming for with this record, and I firmly believe that they got it right. Oh so right! Despite the music being so brilliantly catchy and being so beautifully polished, the lyrics are written from a place of real emotion and heartache too. And goddamn, the production is so pristine, servicing the scope and mood of each individual song, so much so that you almost forget Emarosa were a post-hardcore band just two albums ago. Those older records are all still fine, and they also haven't gone anywhere. So if you're feeling disgruntled or slighted by this new sound, you know exactly where to look to feel safe and coddled. While Emarosa might have never been the most noteworthy of bands with their past releases, 'Peach Club' will most likely change things for them for the better. No, not because it's some vapid pop record whose sole intent was just to sell units and appeal to the lowest common denominator of listeners. But because it's a well-written, meaningful record with real soul and heart brimming throughout - synths and all. This is the LP Emarosa was meant to create, one that'll set them down a path of greatness. This inspired club isn't invite-only, so there's no excuse to not bop this thing hard!

  1. Givin' Up
  2. Don't Cry
  3. Cautious
  4. Get Back Up
  5. So Bad
  6. Help You Out
  7. xo
  8. Hell Of it
  9. Comfortable
  10. IW2DWY
  11. Wait, Stay

'Peach Club' is out February 8th, 2019, via Hopeless Records.