Since reforming as a band in 2012, the members of The Early November have had to be much more grown up about how the band fits into their lives. Between day-jobs, parenting and the realities of adulthood, it’s only understandable that the time between records and touring cycles increases (this is the band’s first release since 2015’s Imbue). However, the beauty of the band being a labour of love, rather than an occupation, is the freedom that this gives the Early November to explore different sounds, and put out the music that they want to put out.
Since their reformation, each Early November record has had its own individual sound, themes and feel. 2012’s ‘In Currents’ saw the band embrace an experimental brand of indie-rock, featuring a variety of sounds and textures; from synths, to electric guitar, to slow acoustic numbers. 2015’s ‘Imbue’ saw the band go back to basics, and release a fuzzy alt-rock album; heavy on distorted guitars and simple, but effective songwriting.
Lilac couldn’t be more different to its predecessors. It has some of the electronic flourishes found on ‘In Currents’, but these have been dialed-up and mutated into something entirely unique from the rest of the Early November’s back catalogue. The band still make use of their guitarist triumvirate, but the production and effects takes the three guitars and makes them sound like an entire orchestra.
This means that ‘Perfect Sphere’ sounds completely different to ‘My Weakness’ which in turn is as far removed from ‘Ave Maria’ as possible. And these are just the first three tracks. The first is reminiscent of the latest Dashboard Confessional record, where mid-00’s emo-pop was combined with modern electronic music. The second is almost a throwback to Imbue; where at least one of the guitars is treated to a distortion pedal. The third, ‘Ave Maria’-a twinkly number which-sounds like it could’ve been written by dream-pop specialists Turnover-wipes the guitars completely clean and adds a delay pedal to create an ambience quite unlike anything else in the Early November’s back catalogue, or, indeed anything on this record. It’s truly staggering in its ambition and execution.
Lyrically, this record is heavily influenced by addiction and struggle. Ace Enders has noted that this is something that has affected some of those close to him, and something he wanted to exorcise through his music. Having said that, this is far from a downbeat record; if anything, it sounds like a redemption.
Similarly there is a reflection throughout this album of where the band came from, where it is now, and the impact that chasing dreams has on a person’s life. The band have truly grownup in the best possible way.
While there is a lot that’s different from standard Early November fare here, there’s still plenty for old-school fans to sink their teeth into. The sliding guitars from ‘The Mother, The Mechanic and The Path’ make a welcome return on first single ‘Hit by a Car’; and the country-tinged indie of ‘Comatose’ and ‘My Weakness’, while mature in nature, wouldn’t sound that out-of-place on any of the band’s records, post-‘The Room’s Too Cold’.
However, ultimately, this album is about the future, and the direction that the band is heading. Growing up in the best way possible, and making art that is worthy of the name. It’s certainly the band’s most ambitious record to date, but also an indication that they haven’t peaked just yet. A great installment to an often overlooked, and heavily influential body of work. Their star shows no sign of burning out just yet.
‘Lilac’ is out now via Rise Records