Emarosa released their new album “131” today and I can’t put into words how much I have been anticipating this. I stayed up and downloaded it from iTunes at exactly midnight (I also pre-ordered the vinyl but couldn’t wait for it!) and then cried my face off when the beauty of it all filled my bedroom. I so badly want to throw this review into CAPSLOCK-overdrive and take it straight to Emo Town, but I’ll try to stay calm, collected, and coherent. When all I want to do is write an essay on what my heart feels like while listening to this album, though!
“And then I cried again at the 1:22 mark….”
Let’s start with the truth: this album slays; it’s a career-best for Emarosa. Oftentimes when an album is so perfectly-constructed, it can come off sounding too polished, insincere, a product of too many hands in the pot. Emarosa effortlessly avoided that and instead gave us what can only be labeled as a gift.
131 starts off with the goosebump-inducing “Hurt,” which features an otherworldly high note that turned on the faucet in my eyeballs before I even knew what was going on. Some of the tracks almost feel downright invasive, voyeuristic, like squinting through a keyhole, but then you realize you’re looking at parts of your own life. Relatable and raw, these songs are woven together with precision and thought—everything is done for a reason, every last note and word mean something, nothing is wasted or used as filler, and there are subtle connections all over the place (“Re” beautifully reworks lyrics found throughout 131 and ties it all up with a bow to provide an emotional umph of an album end-cap).
God, this band is scary-smart.
There were times on early releases, during the pre-Bradley years, where the vocal focus overshadowed the music. But it’s a new era now and the rest of the band isn’t just providing background noise, a generic gym mat to support Bradley’s smooth vocal acrobatics. Emarosa has grown into one strong, cohesive powerhouse where the vocals and instrumentation stand on equal footing.
It’s clear now that they were only testing the waters with their last album Versus. With 131, there’s a certain confidence that is felt, a sense of familiarity within the band that enables them to push these new songs past their limits, like the sly and incredibly fun Bobby Brown/Ghostbusters hat-tip in “Helpless”; the pure pop gold of “Cloud 9” would fit in perfectly on any Carly Rae Jepsen-inspired playlist; and while “Miracle” could have easily have been a shoe-gazer, the band carries the lyrics of loss and anguish on the back of an urgent parade procession of beats. THOSE DRUMS THOUGH. It’s not “Emarosa with their new singer Bradley Walden” anymore—it’s just new Emarosa, breaking out of their post-hardcore constraints.
My current favorite (which will change 87 times today because how can you play favorites with an album this perfect) is “Never,” on which Bradley’s wife Amy Meeko provides guest vocals. My thoughts on that are: can she be in the band now, always and forever? Their voices blend together like buttercream, and not the shitty supermarket bakery birthday cake kind, either. They could sing the DMV’s drivers manual together and I’d buy it on vinyl and then make “Yielding the Right-of-Way” my ring tone. Power ballad, power couple.
131 is the perfect medley of pop, rock, and soul-stabbing balladry without sounding like the soundtrack to Sybil’s brain. No, Emarosa is not having an identity crisis—these guys know exactly who they are and it’s only a matter of time before everyone else does, too.
My only complaint about Emarosa’s 131 is that it’s not 12 hours longer. Please go buy this.
Or listen to it first on Spotify. And then go buy it. Buy a copy for your mailman too.