It is the plight of humankind to be unable to feel the experiences of others. You can never feel anyone’s pain for them. The closest we can come is empathy, the mere understanding of another’s feelings. Music, for whatever reason, has the ability to push the idea of empathy to its extreme. People are truly saved by music, they find and lose themselves within its walls. And there is no form of music that is more true of than the one currently experiencing an all out renaissance.
The Emo Revival, as it has been termed, has seen the return of a genre often dismissed and misunderstood. Picking up where bands like American Football, The Promise Ring, and Jimmy Eat World left off, new bands have emerged to resuscitate the once left-for-dead brand of music. Back in fashion are the plaintive singer with the introspective lyrics, backed by a band always ready to explode.
On Ephemera, split/halves offer an interesting and unique take on this genre. Ephemera is a fresh breath for a style that can sometimes feel rote, despite the desire to offer emotional catharsis. Sometimes it’s like, everyone’s got problems, you know? Of course, Ephemera is still full of self-doubt, wallowing, anxiety, and sorrow, but the band has a distinct self-aware tone. Take, for example, the opening line from the album’s closing track “Et Cetera:” “I’ve got this habit / A bad one / Of pulling at the sutures.” Vocalist Trevor Nierendorf is well aware of his inclination for self indulgence and that’s what makes it all tolerable and downright fun to listen to.
The album’s heart, the title track “Ephemera,” acts as a moment of clarity. “Ephemera” is constructed as an apology to a lover, running through a litany of observations including “There’s not much to say / That I haven’t already anyway,” and “I found myself repeating myself extra as of late.” Nierendorf’s woes also serve as an instructive look at the music he’s making, finally culminating with a shout of “I didn’t expect to be so hopelessly lost in my own ephemera.” He never planned to carry on about his own troubles, but it’s the only way he knows to let it all out.
Mike Harris and Tim Stone on bass and drums respectively, provide a rhythm section that keeps Nierendorf in check. Their rollicking sound provides a boundary that doesn’t let him fly off the handle. That is most clearly at work on “Ephemera,” where the rhythm section gives the track a dreamy, shimmering feel. Nierendorf and Andrew Johnson prove to be more than capable guitarists, delivering huge riffs on multiple tracks.
Ephemera is an important addition to the Emo Revival because of its ability to push the boundaries on a genre that can feel cloying and petulant at times. It’s an album that deserves to be more than ephemera.
- Refreshingly self-aware lyrics
- Tight rhythm and guitar work
- Second half hits a rut
- The melodies are ripe for a few more choruses