January 21, 2018
Released On July 29, 2016
Released By Broken World Media
At the onset of We Are At Home In The Body, For Everest draws a line in the sand to let everyone know where they stand. “I am the line between sympathy and apathy,” vocalist Sarah Cowell melodically vents on the opening track “Reasons #2-7.” It’s a bold proclamation that makes for one of the best rock lyrics of the decade, but it’s more than that. It sums up the existence of For Everest, a band dealing with severe emotions and tragic experiences in their music, and lets you know exactly the type of voice that’s going to be guiding you through this crucial music.
We Are At Home In The Body is an imposing record. To listen to, to discuss. It has some really appetizing melodies and great standalone songs — “Reasons #2-7” being one of them — but this is not a record you just put on in the background at work and hum along to, unless you want to spend your work day fighting back tears as your simple hums turn into muted bellows. Abuse, instability, anxiety, loss; these weighty subjects just scratch the surface of what the band touches down on this record. That may seem off-putting for those just looking for an easy listen, but it’s a necessary musical experience, one that could help you make sense of your own shortcomings or tragedies even if the dozens on display haven’t all happened to you.
This is a unique sound, even if much of it feels rooted in modern emo and pop punk. You can draw connections from Paramore down to early Jimmy Eat World, and honestly, those connections work, but not in a “X sounds like Y” way. No, those connections work when following the trajectory of the emo sound, one that’s continually evolved since Diary was first released in 1994 and hasn’t stopped even as For Everest dropped this sonic bombshell on the community a few years back. As the subject matter has increased, so has the technicality, something needed to balance out all of the emotions being dissected, and it’s technicality that For Everest has in spades as you make your way through their caustic rock tracks and cavernous ruminations.
Instead of Paramore, Jimmy Eat World, or Sunny Day Real Estate, the only apt comparison here is The World Is A Beautiful Place, which is fitting considering For Everest used the same producer as TWIABP’s breakout record, Harmlessness, Chris Teti. Oh, and TWIABP members David Bello and Nick Kwas also make guest appearances on this record too. But this isn’t Harmlessness Redux or even close. For Everest carries a sharper wit to examine their experiences, and relays it through sharper tones, bolder songs, and indelible melodies. I have to bring up “Reasons #2-7” again, a song that hasn’t left my mind since I first heard it two and a half years ago, but maybe another song will imprint itself on to you here — the bitter pill that is “Autonomy,” the sweeping two part “Slurpee” movement,” or the cathartic breakdown of “I’m In A Boxcar Buried Inside A Quarry.”
Honestly, I feel out of my element discussing this record because so much of its worth is predicated on the lyrical concepts, ideas and notions that I haven’t even been able to make sense out of within my own life — toxic relationships, personal disgust, and feelings that range from sympathy and apathy just like that opening blast. What I can tell you is that the theme of the record is somewhat clear from the onset, and painfully obvious as you finish the blistering closing track “50/50.” It’s about feeling at home with yourself while also rejecting that home. It’s a complicated feeling I’ve often retreated into, wanting to be alone because you’re just so disgusted by your own very existence, a weighty feeling that the band more eloquently deconstructs and examines here. And it’s that message that welcomes me back in with every listen, and makes it a vital record for 2016, 2019, or any time moving forward.
I read a quote from Sarah Cowell when discussing “Autonomy,” the record’s lead single. “It is hard to save yourself while trying to save someone else,” they said while talking about an abusive relationship they walked away from. I initially took that as “everyone for themselves,” but as I keep making my way through We Are At Home In The Body, I realize Cowell and their bandmates aren’t giving up on saving others in order to save themselves. Instead, in the pursuit of their own salvation, they’ve made a record that can serve as salvation for others suffering from similar or adjacent personal ailments who just need some canny wit and cleansing melodies to help them find the light. Somehow.
So as “Reasons #2-7” asks, “do you wonder which side you fall on?” If so, then this is music you have to listen to.
Modern emo addressing themes and issues with such bare vulnerability that even their precursors would be shocked and alarmed.
Wishful, powerful thinking, I tell myself. The title of the 2016 album from For Everest leaps out at me before the play button is pressed, my heart throbbing with that weight of a teenage girl while my mouth sneers with the weight of an adult woman. That is a heavy title, a loaded statement that I want to both believe and simultaneously not believe, and I go into the album wondering what exactly such a statement could be setting me up for. Walking away, all I can think is, “I don’t want a body.” Anathematic in the album is the rejection of the body, that dead weight so barbed and full of traps, sung by front woman Sarah Cowell in an unapologetically powerful way, even in her vulnerability in creating that statement and recording it, no less. Duality pervades the album, actually, existing both thematically in how the body and desire are represented in the lyrics, to the male and female voices singing them, and even in the tone of the music. At times there is a mournfulness or wistfulness underlying these thoughts, but on the next track the band jumps, defiant and no longer quiet. On a 9-track album, the band necessarily hops from side to side in a sense without having the space to smooth things out, but the end result just feels that much more authentic to the experience portrayed in the lyrics.
Laura Burroughs (@_thetwors)
Jestful Musical Erudite
For Everest show some smarts right from the start, with that name, which can seesaw in my mind from an over-the-top declaration of love or friendship (“I’ll be yours…foreverest!”) to a declaration of intent, such as one Sir Edmund Hilary might have used to rally his sherpas: “For Everest!” The music is brainy, too, and maybe a little bloodless, but sometimes that’s the best way to deal with deep emotions, which certainly seem to be on tap here. And some of those emotions are dark, like these lyrics from “Autonomy:” “If the cigarettes don’t cloud your lungs and rot your teeth / And the drugs don’t eat your heart and slur your speech / If you make it home tonight without killing anyone else / I hope you find a way to hurt yourself!” I guess that’s the kind of thing Sarah Cowell, singer and keyboard player, was referring to when she said in an interview with Stereogum: “I write all the mean stuff.” Cowell is one of two singers, with the other being Nick Pitman, who also plays guitar, writes, and engineers for the band. Mean or not, Cowell is definitely the more assured of the two, with Pitman sometimes sounding oddly studied when he takes the lead, as if he’s reading off a lyric sheet. His most successful vocals come when he intertwines with Cowell, as on “Penny Royalty,” which has them engaging in a spirited vocal counterpoint. In the end what impresses me the most about For Everest is the economical way they build up a head of steam with interlocking guitar parts and cloudy keyboards, with the power coming from the composition rather than from increasing volume or distortion. I was not surprised to read in that same interview that several members of the quintet were music majors at NYU as there is real structural technique in their DNA. Other strands come from emo and post-rock and if you’re more interested in the latter (I know I am), definitely check out Poison Oak, the instrumental band that consists of Ian Pritchard and Brian McFarland, For Everest’s guitarist and drummer, respectively. If coming to terms with We Are At Home In The Body was a bit of an effort for me, finding Poison Oak’s gorgeously immersive album Nimbus was worth the climb.
“I think sometimes I hear things as riddles that aren’t really riddles.” I finished John Darnielle’s Wolf In White Van this morning, and had to laugh when I read that because it described exactly how I’d been feeling since first listening to “Slurpee Pt. 2.” “I’ve burnt a hole through my brain trying to remember” the song that this song makes me think of, but all I can come up with is an incomplete riff that almost, but not quite, matches the music surrounding “eventually I will feel nothing at all.” I know this isn’t a riddle, but my brain is treating it like one. And really, so much of We Are At Home In The Body feels like a riddle whose answer is just outside my grasp. Pieces of it remind me of other things, but only slightly and never enough to fully grab onto the fleeting thought that might provide an answer. It isn’t a riddle, I know that. But now that I’ve heard it as one, that’s how it will live on in my mind. Better a riddle than to dive too deep into the past dredged up by lyrics like “but the engine’s on fire and I’m stuck inside / I said I was fine but I lied” (“Autonomy“) or “saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘convince me’” (“I’m In A Boxcar Buried Inside A Quarry“). Yes. Better a riddle than memories, I think.
50 Foot Pop Queenie
Taking Darby Crash’s legendary peanut-butter performance to a new level.
I’m currently 67 pages into Lament From Epirus: An Odyssey Into Europe’s Oldest Surviving Folk Music, a book written by the legendary 78 rpm record collector Christopher C. King about a particular strain of folk music found in the region that straddles the border separating modern day Greece and Albania. I mentioned King a few issues back, and his idea that music was — and still can be — a tool for survival. Something so foundational that it takes on a vital function. In We Are At Home In The Body, I hear a similar act of critical creativity — one in which the emotional stakes are so high that the lyrics feel like the fulfillment of an imperative. “It’s sink or swim,” we hear in “Slurpee Pt. 1.” “I’m In A Boxcar Buried Inside A Quarry” establishes a crucial distinction: “That’s the difference between being held and holding on.” In an especially wrenching moment, “The Body” asks “What is there to memorialize while I’m still alive?” We Are At Home In The Body contains lyrics that could only have originated in a deep, dire place. And they’re sung with such passion and poise. In that sense, the album proves to be as brave as any you’ll hear. “There but for the grace of God go I” is an old expression I use without thinking every once in a while. For Everest has me thinking about the ways music upends it. Songs invite you to go everywhere, all the way to the core of what it means to be alive, thanks to songwriters who have the courage to lay it all on the line.
First off, happy new year everyone! I realize we’re three weeks into January, and we’re just as many issues deep, but, despite my better efforts, this is my first OYR contribution of 2019 because, as usual, I got caught up in work. In my defense, I had listened to Crozet’s We’ll Be Gone By Then and I was completely ready to make some wild comparisons to mid-2000’s Fueled By Ramen acts. Since I missed out on that though, I guess I’ll have to settle for making similar comparisons between For Everest and Paper + Plastick artists circa 2011. Specifically Farewell Continental, whose sole LP, ¡Hey Hey Pioneers!, had a similar approach to pop music in that they wrote catchy pop songs while not being overtly poppy. Immediately on my first listen I felt as if We Are At Home In The Body filled that void left by the fact that Farewell Continental never got around to releasing a second album. But before I keep harping on a band that isn’t supposed to be this week’s focus, let me say that while my initial reactions to hearing this album are likely to last for as long as I keep it in my library, For Everest is not a band that exists solely within the context of a band that released one album eight years ago. There’s plenty to suggest that the band draws from a variety of influences, many of which are right up my alley. The tongue-in-cheek titles like “Penny Royalty,” the venom of “Autonomy,” and the big emo breakdown of “50/50” suggest a flair for the dramatic a la the midwest in the ’90s, but the lyrics of “Vitamins” make it clear that this is a NYC-based band (which was also confirmed by a quick look at their Bandcamp page). I’m kind of shocked that I’ve never accidentally ended up at any For Everest shows, but as the saying goes, better late than never. Regardless of the context in which I’m listening to this album, I know I’m enjoying it.
Let’s just start with the fact that when I began listening to this band with the innocent-but-intriguing name, and an album with an awkwardly curious title, that the emergence of thickly layered, metallic, chugging, lead guitar chords of the mildly minor persuasion, all got my attention fairly quickly. The easy to grab rhythmic momentum of alternating snare and kick against the consistent but fast paced guitar braced me for an imminent splash of tonal contrast — a non-traditional instrument to end the hook, a very quirky and uncommon voice, or perhaps something else wholly unexpected. The minimal note movement outside of the bass line started to create a sense of anticipation as I began to note how many measures had passed by and I thought to myself, “Going for the longer eight-bar intro, huh? Okay, the break I’m waiting for is going to come in 3, 2, 1…” Nope. No break. The chugging continued for another set of bars and then another. 45 seconds and 40 total bars of repetitious introduction, I was ready to give up because the sense of suspension that would have been ideal at eight or maybe 16 bars, was long beyond that and instead I found my mind wandering wondering what was going to happen. But boy am I glad I hung in there because the contrast I initially expected came through in a huge way. Imagine a singer that gives off the vocal bite of early Hayley Williams and the eventual band backing to match. Paramore, Flyleaf, Wolf Alice fans rejoice! But then, a full minute into “Reasons #2-7” gone by, and the male voice you’re greeted with is everything keys player/vocalist Sarah Cowell isn’t: tone-straight, clear, and exactly what I would expect to hear front and center… in the next witty Broadway musical. I kid you not. Lyrics are thoughtfully pronounced and punctuated with straightforward clarity and the difference in staggering. Both parts are sung just fine — no one is off-key or slurring in an incomprehensible manner — but the style of delivery couldn’t be any farther apart if the two voices were born on opposite sides of the galaxy. Now, don’t misunderstand: For Everest are solid in their cohesion as a group. It’s just, somewhat startling in a, “Wasn’t expecting that” kind of way. We Are At Home In The Body stands nicely between the fences of edgy and catchy, as mainstreamed post-punk and pop-punk often does. There are vibrant string parts and heavy-footed breakdowns not uncommon for the classic emo-tinged pop-punk ballad (“I’m In A Boxcar Buried Inside A Quarry“) and even some drastically format-defying cuts like the nearly seven minute, quite ambient closer, “50/50.” There’s enough familiar substance to hold tight to as the album gets from the start to the finish and enough different writing tactics to not be laid out in an entirely predictable fashion, considering the style For Everest has chosen. (The respite of variance maybe a product of the formal collegiate music study by some of the band?) However, I’d definitely say this is an excellent reminder as to why what goes into first impressions, not to mention the fact that first impressions are formed quickly, both need to maintain a level of priority when making a record. If someone isn’t determined to sit through an album regardless of what they hear, a minute long, minimal, introductory hook is likely to leave whatever other goodness there is to be had, unopened and unheard.
Do you ever wonder why just before the main event on an otherwise spectacular wrestling card there’s an ill-conceived, uninteresting, throwaway match? You know, it’s that moment where you ask yourself “why in the hell would anyone have R-Truth in a tuxedo match against Bo Dallas this late into WrestleMania?” Well, there’s actually a very specific and deliberate reason — it’s all about pacing. This throwaway match was most likely preceded by an intense blockbuster that had the crowd on the edge of their seats for the better part of an hour. If you don’t give them a break before the main event, a chance to breathe and reduce their heart rates, they’ll have no energy left halfway through the main event. This principle of pacing is also an essential aspect of production, and it’s why this record works so well. You can almost draw a line through the album to trace the peaks and valleys in energy. We start on a high with “Reasons #2-7” through “Slurpee Pt. 2.” Then we take a much needed emotional dip into “I’m In A Boxcar Buried Inside A Quarry” only to be taken even higher than before for (my personal favorite) “Autonomy.” We take another dive for the emotional weight of “The Body,” and then finish on the epic fireworks display that is “50/50.” And now I’m spent, but there’s almost a runner’s high effect where I want more as I catch my second wind. And just like that, I’ve been played like an instrument. Well done.
“I am the line between sympathy and apathy.”
Just this week I handed in my review of Cherry Glazerr’s upcoming record — a solid effort, by the way — for another publication, and I noticed a startling similarity between their work and For Everest’s. Both bands see smoking cigarettes as a destructive force, both literally and figuratively. CG guitarist and vocalist Clementine Creevy once humorously declared on a song called “Trash People” that “We wear our underpants three days in a row / My room smells like an ashtray” and followed that up two years later with something darker: “Smoking makes me taste like metal / To keep you away.” Similarly, FE keyboardist and vocalist Sarah Cowell sings, “I’ve been smoking my mother’s brand of cigarettes because I hate myself to death” and directly references the physical harm they do to one’s lungs and teeth later in the album. And as a non-smoker, I have to say that the effects of cigarettes are what have kept me from developing the habit. More succinctly, I’m a runner at heart and the idea of a diminished lung capacity such that it erodes and/or destroys one of my favorite activities, as well as a main source of stress relief, by itself is reason enough to not smoke. (This, of course, might be in direct contradiction to my love of both Christopher Buckley’s Thank You For Smoking and the superb film adaptation by Jason Reitman.) This isn’t to say, however, that I haven’t tried smoking. I’ve had a few cigarettes over the years, and I totally get the satisfaction from the act. It can be relaxing to a comically clichéd degree. But then again, so can heroin.
One of the first things I noticed about this album was how the lead female singer sounded like Hayley Williams from Paramore, and as I dove deeper, the sound of the band in general matches that angsty rock sound that defined all of the bands I listened to growing up from the aforementioned Paramore to bands like Sum 41 and Mayday Parade. The great thing about all those bands is that the lyrics were powerful, relatable, and something you’d just want to sing along to at the top of your lungs when you’ve had one of those days, or maybe weeks or even months. I find this album has that too, with “Slurpee Pt. 2” being a great example. The lyrics “If I feel like nothing eventually / I will feel nothing at all” just repeating over and over, building and building, just caught my attention and (despite the tone of the lyrics) made me feel something. Really, The lyrics in the whole album are pretty profound, and actually listening to them and really dissecting them just shows what great songwriters this band is home to… just like the body.
Emo is mocked by music critics and I think that’s too easy. There’s something that rings hollow about the sort high-brow dismissiveness with which we talk about bands who are inspired to rock out their internal turmoil. The idea that someone might want to sing about their own feelings in a relatable way to those who might share them is certainly not new. What is new is the honesty and confidence with which the next generation cuts to the chase. One person’s self-indulgence is another’s expression of relatability of the music. If all goes well, we eventually mature out of wallowing in our own miseries and so capturing such transitional feelings in the form of music may seem like catching a young fish and failing to throw it back. But let’s not forget that all records don’t have to be monuments to eras, narratives, or situations. Some records can be monuments to a moment in the life of an artist. The chaos of emotional upset or uncertainty is best expressed in the chaos of distorted guitars and soaring, frustrated vocals. A listener may come to it in their own good time if it’s done right. For Everest’s We Are At Home In The Body is one such record. I regret that it didn’t seem to reach as many people as it out to have. It begins with wall-of-noise influences which recall ’90s shoegazer bands like Ride and then Sarah Cowell’s indie-girl vocal style is introduced suggesting a more modern take. There’s a Stars-like back-and-forth play between she and fellow vocalist Nick Pitman who also over-enunciates his way through “Penny Royalty” like a practiced indie-rock pro. But that’s not where it ends — in fact — it’s still early. “Vitamins” is a little more vulnerable. But deep within the grinding bass, epic keys, and soaring vocals of “50/50,” there’s a “holy shit” moment where you realize that as the album comes to a close you’ve just been through something — the band has shared with you an emotional experience. It’s been cathartic, relatable, and beautifully free of rage or angst. It just is what it is. Because life. “It’s just a matter of time before you leave, or I make you wish you had.” … “I apologize. We’re not who we’re meant to be yet”. If the record could be said to have a narrative, it would be an adventure through the experiences of a troubled heart. If emo is to be mocked, then let it be with the knowledge that your chuckling sanctimony is cover for feelings you’re afraid to admit you’ve indulged at some point in your life.
The Astorian by Side Saddle
Chosen By Kira Grunenberg