Rocky Loves Emily comes out with a bang with their first full-length album. The sound is bigger and better than their debut EP, American Dream. The album starts off strong with the harshly titled “I Don’t Like You.” Lead vocalist Brandon Ellis’s sugar sweet voice innocently opens with “got you in a hot mess/girl you’ll never figure me out.” His amiable voice turns sour as the chorus approaches (“I don’t like you anymore”). Guitarists Andrew Stevens and Sean Kick and bassist Stephen Hull bring the real anger to the song, providing larger than life sounds and angst-ridden chords.
Proving their pop culture knowledge and testing their fans’ trivia is RLE’s “Driving Me Crazy.” The song is laden with classic rock lyrics like “Guns N Roses t-shirt,” “hot machete,” and “Hot For teacher.” The band uses the lyrics humorously, making the words the main focus. The guitar chords sound simple and repetitive, making for easy learning, especially for live shows.
The title track was released earlier this year for free. As unfortunate as the lyrics sound, the song comes together as a breakout track. Everything from Pete Kalinowski’s light drumming to the island-y guitars gives off a I-really-don’t-care attitude that’s fun to jam to. For those who may have seen Rocky Loves Emily on tour earlier this year, you may have heard a live performance of “Oil & Water.” The full band ballad easily becomes a sing-along towards the end, even in the studio version. The gang vocals make light of the callous (yet based on a true story) lyrics.
“Be Mine Tonight” is typical modern pop rock boy band material. The guitars are upbeat and the drumming is vigorous, giving Ellis the opportunity to strain his vocals to be deeper and more powerful.
In “Guilty, Guilty,” the lyrics follow the repetitive theme, while the instrumentals are anything but. The cold and almost heart-wrenching lyrics are supplemented by diametrically opposed poppy guitars, bass, and drums. The band inserts a piano ballad with “Dream.” Hull flexes his emotionally gripping skills with the piano chords, working well to highlight Ellis’s emotional vocals. The piano, though, is the main focus of the song, even given a solo towards the end. It’s supplemented with guitars and drums, yet still stands out as the driving force of the track. If the band was looking to be taken seriously, this song is the one to release.
The “Dream” is interrupted by a “Nightmare,” a direct opposite to the previous song. Compared to the vulnerability heard in “Dream,” the lyrics are daring and assured (“I’m your nightmare”). “The One You’re Searching For” makes use of all the band’s instrumental skills, practically overshadowing whatever Ellis is singing. It makes for a perfect live track instrumentally, knowing full well that you will not hear the vocals due to the bravado of the guitars, keys, drums, and bass.
“It’s Not Me, It’s You,” follows the same formula of angst-filled lyrics paired with upbeat instrumentals. The lyrics are funny and the delivery is funnier (just imagine Ellis’s sassiness in recording this).
The album ends with the same force as it began with. It features jazzy piano, feisty drumming, and suave guitar chords, as well as vocals that sound like they’re going through a tunnel. There’s a semi-dubstep section in the middle, that begs for a remix in the future. The lyrics ask “where’s the love, man?” but it’s clear that that song and the entire album will get love. The song tries not to end with its tinny synth slowly fading out (of course, there’s always the replay button!).
Rocky Loves Emily put a lot of work into this album. With the help of producer Matt Grabe (The Maine, Katelyn Tarver, This Century), the band is able to display their talents in the album. The whole bipolarity concept is clear and works well, as it not only creates a fun album to jam to, but also an intellectual subject to really listen to.