Early 2005 was a very tumultuous time in my life. During my freshman year of college, I was in the midst of a difficult long-distance relationship which hung on by a thread at many points. Between January and April, everything more or less fell apart in dramatic fashion. It was during this time that I found The Weak’s End by Emery to express the exact feelings of my heart.
I had heard a couple of the singles on the radio, but they didn’t catch my attention because I wasn’t going through heartbreak, and I wasn’t listening for detail. When I finally got around to purchasing the album, the intricately crafted songs sucked me in. There was a strange melding of truly beautiful harmonies and pseudo-heavy soul-rending screams, unlike the more punk-influenced vocals of a band like UnderOath. In many ways this juxtaposition perfectly expressed the sullen loneliness and explosive frustration of betrayal and abandonment in romance.
To this day, this work is tied for my favorite Emery album, along with In Shallow Seas We Sail. As I’ve listened to it countless times over the years, I still occasionally hear nuances I had missed before. I love that the guitar work doesn’t rely on many tricks or effects to make it interesting. Complimentary melodies, complex chords, and feedback swells blend perfectly in most every song. Though passages of certain songs become heavy, as I mentioned, it isn’t the macho or dark heaviness of metal or hardcore. In some ways, it’s almost more genteel. The instrumentation drives such sections full-force, but it’s the passionate vocal delivery, often interleaving singing and screaming, that gets the point across. The song structures themselves retrain intriguing facets such as a prolonged synthesizer intro or sudden time signature change, which I still don’t understand how anyone could write. All the while, bass, keys, and drums rise to the occasion, remaining interesting without distracting from the core of the music.
Lyrically, the songs deal almost exclusively with romance, often when it is on the rocks, though there are a couple of moments when matters of faith shine through. It was definitely the former subject matter that captivated me as I went through the ups and downs of that season of my life. “Fractions” and “The Ponytail Parades” are two of the best break-up songs ever composed, in my opinion. Each captures the full gamut of emotions involved in such tough times, accompanied by harmonious music which builds to ferocious crescendos. This section of dueling vocal lines from the bridge of “The Ponytail Parades” is exemplary:
How can you take all these days
(What is inside of me? What have I done?)
and throw them away
(Is this the only way that you’ll notice me?)
as I sit here waiting for you (for you)
(Dead words for closed ears – all this is sung for you)
I stay up nights
(If you’re still pretending this is what’s right)
until stars leave the sky
(Why can’t you look at me? Can you only see)
knowing what my dreams can take away
(One side, your side, can take away?)
It’s impossible for me to believe that this record was released over nine years ago, but the fact that I still love it is a testament to the quality of Emery’s songwriting. You can get the beautifully dynamic, bipolar sounds of The Weak’s End on Spotify or Amazon.