It’s only been two years since Emery’s return to form with In Shallow Seas We Sail, and they’ve washed ashore with some dramatic changes in their new album We Do What We Want. While In The Shallow Seas We Sail, we saw the Emery that fans knew and love burst back with astonishing force, We Do What We Want focuses on a heavier sound that doesn’t deliver as nicely as it might initially sound in concept. Between the change in the formula in vocal delivery and the awkward transitions between their melodic and heavier aspects, Emery find themselves stumbling more often than not.
Given the announcement of Devin Shelton’s departure shortly after We Do What We Want was revealed, it’s not contextually shocking that that the dueling vocals that have become a staple in Emery’s sound are mostly absent. While Toby Morrell is certainly no slouch in his performance, it’s undeniable that longtime Emery fans will be disappointed in the absence of the dynamic play between Shelton and Morrell. However, Josh Head and Morrell do a competent job of providing enough back-and-forth play between singing and screaming to ease the absence of what many would consider a vital part of Emery’s sound.
On the topic of Morrell, “The Cheval Glass” begins with his snarling scream over one of Emery’s heaviest breakdowns yet. It’s a strong, brunt opening that awkwardly transitions to Morrell’s crooning and an up-tempo rhythm of guitars that makes the entire song feel like a mixed bag of momentum. It would suffice as a strong opener if the awkward transition was a momentary flaw, but the song manages to continuously stumble over its balance of heavy-handed breakdowns and its poppy sensibilities.
Awkward transitions from different sounds, as it turns out, end up being Emery’s Achilles ’ heel throughout We Do What We Want. In Shallow Seas We Sail presented a good mix of Emery’s ability to transfer their energy through heavier material while keeping their straight-forward rock approaches intact and catchy. We Do What We Want witnesses a different Emery that seems unable to see that poorly placed breakdowns (“Scissors”), awkward moments of screaming coupled with autotune-cradled vocals (“The Anchors”), and smooth verses that fall flat to boring choruses (“Daddy’s Little Peach”) don’t make for an endearing album.
It’s not Emery’s worst outing, as there are a few tracks that are easy to get behind and support. “The Curse of Perfect Days” is grand display of the catchy and balanced energy Emery contained in their earlier works. And while I can hate the repetitious sensibility of the chorus within “You Wanted It,” Morrell’s vocals are some of the catchiest you’ll find on We Do What We Want.
When it comes to the actual lyrical content, it goes without saying that great writing has never been the main appeal of Emery and that goes unchanged here. I feel awful for pointing out the worst offender of this on We Do What We Want, as I imagine it is also the most earnest song present on the album. While Emery has never hidden their religious faith, “Fix You” and its heavy-handed lines such as “Fix me/ Jesus fix me/ I’ve been waiting so long to feel this heartbeat” feel sincere, but fail to overcome their hammy qualities. I have no qualms with worship, religious content, or sincerity in belief but its message is compromised by the quality of the lyrics. I left the song wanting more than just a simplistic, acoustic piece filled with crooning as a delivery for that message if Emery decide to come forth with their faith and send it.
Unfortunately for Emery’s sincerity, We Do What We Want feels like a combination of them appeasing wishes for heavier material while managing to stumble over their poppy personality that they’ve gained throughout their career. The breakdowns often miss more than they hit, and the handful of songs worth visiting are not improvements as much as they are reminders of how albums like The Question and In Shallow Seas We Sail were so endearing. With the departure of Devin Shelton and this album’s content, I can only hope that Emery reevaluate their future intentions and plan for a more cohesive, smoothly delivered album with their next release.
- The Cheval Glass
- The Anchors
- The Curse of Perfect Days
- You Wanted It
- I'm Not Here For Rage I'm Here For Revenge
- Daddy's Little Peach
- Addicted to Bad Decisions
- I Never Got to See the West Coast
- Fix Me
Buy it here.