“Perfect Sphere (Bubble),” the first track off the Early November’s newest LP, Lilac, hits listeners with immediate and hypnotic vocals paired with a poetic piano part that sets the stage for the pop-infused, dreamy comfort this record offers throughout its entirety.
Lilac weaves through several heavily lo-fi bedroom-pop instrumentals, garnished with influences from all over the map by incorporating flavors of funk, classic rock and gritty emo-esque vocals. Even with such a sonically adventurous shift, the Early November continue to crank out brutally real and emotionally resonant lyrics that so many fans have come to love while flawlessly executing interesting electronic aspects and atmospheric pop textures. This ambitious blend delivered with impressive confidence creates a sound with fresh elements that haven’t been heavily featured in the group’s previous work.
Frontman Ace Enders, who also took on producing duties for this album, makes a point to incorporate subtle yet affecting tidbits that turn Lilac from a collection of songs into a storybook. “You Own My Mind” opens with heavy, shaky breathing that continues throughout the opening instrumental without overpowering it, stopping right before Enders breaks into a nearly ominously heartbroken and emotionally charged lead vocal. The theme of nuanced storytelling underneath the core musical components adds something special to this record for ears that pay attention to the most minute of details and serves as a key factor in enabling Lilac to be consumed as a full-bodied work of art.
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Among the sonically complex details, Enders’ vocals are more than deserving of their own spotlight. From smooth vocalizing in the chorus of “My Weakness” that’s so clear and melodic it nearly sounds machine-made to the passion-filled grit the rocker delivers in tracks such as “Our Choice,” his angelically trained pipes and lack of fear to jump into higher registers certainly adds to the goosebump-inducing emotional facets of the record.
Another unmistakable strength that Lilac offers is the journey it takes the listener on lyrically. Tackling intensely personal subject matter with zero hesitation, this album walks through vices, addiction, how to handle your mistakes, numbness, choosing happiness, failure and crippling self-awareness, just to name a few.
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This output has a lot to offer an optimistic ear. Although at times the instrumentals may feel a little heavily produced or overpowering compared to the vocals, as a whole it offers satisfying numbers that throw unexpected surprises such as a relaxing trumpet or a funk-rock riff into a melting pot with pop as its base. A journey from start to finish, Lilac is complete with intimate and potent mini-stories that find their power in deeply personal rhetoric.
This is undeniably a turning point for the Early November with its now more heavily featured pop and electronic flavors, but it still remains full of edgy grit as well as raw and brutally honest lyrics. Anyone who’s ever been stuck in their own head or dealt with anxiety to any degree can find solace here. A chill-inducing story of “man versus self,” the Early November have made bold moves with Lilac as they step forward with their sound, not wavering for even a moment in delivering the emotionally charged content they’ve built their success upon.
Lilac dropped Sept. 27 via Rise Records, and you can check it out here.