You’d do well not to label the music of Cleveland, Tennessee band My Captain, My King as emo. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be accurate as such, but there can be such a stigma when discussing that genre that to characterize their sound under that rhythmic umbrella would be to invite unfair criticism and unwarranted antagonism. Emo has never had a particularly fair run at mainstream success (at least in a critical sense), with bands like Mineral and Cap’n Jazz losing out to the more accessible melodic machinations of mainstream artists like Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance.
But My Captain, My King sits firmly in the realm of bands whose understanding of the inherently emotional aspects of this genre allows them to bypass the often creaky lyrical diatribes and banal sentiments that so often plague these specific sounds. The guitars still rattle around and possess a pop-minded resolve but the underlying foundations are far more detailed and complex than most of their emo brethren. The band (built around the core interpersonal dynamics between Graham Brooks, Kyle Brooks, Michael Albritton and Preston Colling) doesn’t wallow in nostalgia but exerts a rather impressive empathy and inclusiveness.
On their new record, “The Wall That I Built,” the band stomps a bit, shakes the walls and then allows their heart-on-sleeve perspectives on settle down into your bones. There’s a fascinating interaction between the songs, such as how the subdued opening track, “Home,” quickly jumps into the ecstatic electricity of follow up, “Stones.” The band doesn’t follow a set blueprint, however, but opts for something more organic in its execution. These songs breathe and bloom, a set of 7 tracks that don’t lay their allegiance easily or without ample consideration.
Other tracks like “I Don’t Care What Heath Says” and “Letter to Myself” play around with something a bit more acidic and ferocious, even as they focus on developing the interior melodies that sustain each one. “Happy Anniversary” closes out the record with something that resembles intense introspection. The sounds are dialed back, but the emotion is cranked up to 11. “The Wall That I Built” isn’t the sound of a group simply wading through the sounds of their heroes — it’s the sound of a complex reinvention that involves an immersive adaptation of their influences.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.