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Music Review: Emanuel and the Fear – Emanuel and the Fear

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Emanuel and the Fear are a new band/collective(?) based out of New York. The band boasts an entourage of musicians, everything from strings and horns to the more typical instrumentation of rock. Incorporating everything from electro to pensive folk influences, the group manages to handle a range of styles without any of them coming across as forced.

Things start off with the springtime romp of “The Rain Becomes The Clouds”, which comfortably combines the retro-pop immediacy of The Postal Service with the more diverse instrumentation of Sufjan Stevens. Of all the tracks on the EP, this song seems to find them the most at home and hopefully wil be a prime direction they pursue for some of their future work.

“Comfortable Prison” follows, and is a very stripped down folksy singer-songwriter track. The horns and drum machine are replaced by an acoustic guitar and pedal steel. Although it’s a stark contrast to what came before, it’s a very nice song on its own. Lead singer Emanuel Ayvas has great vocal range, and style enough to carry out the chameleon needs of this EP. The instrumentation fills up towards the end with strings and more backing vocals, a fullness that seems to fit their M.O.

The indie romp of “Jimme’s Song” relies on an extended backbeat groove and is easily the catchiest track. Unfortunately, it’s also about twice as long as what it can reasonably support. Because of this it starts to wear out its welcome, as it breaks down into a lengthy slow jam. Again, nice enough the first time around, but then becomes gratuitous.

“We’re All Alright Tonight” seems to combine some of the orchestral energy of “The Rain Becomes The Clouds” with the loose rhythmic drive of “Jimme’s Song” and mostly to very positive results. The only misstep is an over-reliance on productrion tricks that detract from, rather than add to, the track. Dear world, the overly-processed robotic auto-tuning (or “Cher vocal effect” as I prefer to call it) sound is officially old. Please kill it. It’s marring an otherwise great track here.

Things close out with the instrumental piano solo, “Two.” It feels like a smokey lounge take on classical music, in the best sense. Although stylistically it feels tacked on as a bonus track, I think it hints at the diversity and musical chops present on the rest of the EP. There are elements of existing styles at work throughout the tracks, but Emanual and the Fear seem able to rise above the “me too” attitude of a lot of bands and infuse their own creativity into the mix. The diversity here is a sign of quality and range.

This debut EP only feels disjointed because of it’s limited duration. A five-track offering of mostly pop-length songs simply doesn’t last long enough to accomodate the kind of range they’re going for here. As the group is at work on their debut full length, I have a feeling that their scope will feel more at home with twice the space to roam. But based on the depth of songs offered here – regardless of the scattershot of styles – this is a group to take notice of. The quality of the tracks on this EP whets the appetite for hopefully more to come.

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About David R Perry