“Tailored sheets, to fix this dirty bed…” It’s one of the most iconic openings to an album in my expansive collection. The unmistakable sound of Jonny Craig’s signature vocals belting out the first few notes of the record before being joined by a barrage of ambient chords was the perfect start to a record that relaunched both Craig and the band Emarosa.
Prior to this debut full-length, Emarosa were a pretty generic metalcore band complete with breakdowns, screaming and heavy riffs (search for ‘This Is Your Way Out’ if you’re curious). The band decided to switch to a more mature, well-crafted sound and took a chance on Jonny Craig as the man to put words to their new, ambient style. Craig established himself as one of the best, most naturally talented singers in the post-hardcore genre during his time with Dance Gavin Dance but was ousted from the band due to several issues related to his drug abuse. ‘Relativity’ was his chance to get his singing career back on track and for this record at least, the coming together of these two forces created spectacular results.
I still believe ‘Relativity’ to be the best thing Craig has ever done. In his time with Dance Gavin Dance, Craig’s vocals were a counterpoint to Jon Mess’ frantic style of screaming and though his voice is far too good to be considered just a sweetener on ‘Downtown Battle Mountain’, his role in the band was effectively to provide catchiness and a melody. ‘Relativity’ is the first time we heard Craig stand up on his own and he proved to any doubters that he’s more than capable of leading a band on his own merits. Keen to prove himself after the incidents in Dance Gavin Dance, Craig dominates the record with his expansive range, uniquely crafted vocal arrangements and his unmistakable, silky-sweet tone.
It’s easy to focus a lot of attention on the vocals, but musically this record is just as impressive. During this stage of the band’s sound, Emarosa excelled at making complex compositions sound simple – in much the same way that Artifex Pereo have since become superb at. On first listen, the guitar work seems to simply be a foundation to backup Craig’s impressive vocals, but if you dig deeper and follow the guitar intently, it’s so much more involved than you’d imagine. Mike’s cover of ‘Heads or Tails, Real or Not’ is a perfect example of this stealthy style of intricate guitar work, that’s often multi-layered, intricate and meandering.
This is one of those rare records that had me in full-body goosebumps from start to finish when I first heard it and today, hearing the album back in full for the first time in a while, I got them all over again. The combination of Craig’s voice and beautifully ambient, weaving guitars is a cocktail that I can happily overindulge on at any time and though both Emarosa and Jonny Craig have gone on to do other successful things, nothing has topped the joy I get from this record.
The follow-up self-titled album, the last to come from this Craig/Emarosa collaboration, is also a great record, but there’s not a single passage, or even note, that I’d change from ‘Relativity’, making it another one of my most treasured records and one that never seems to age. If you have a copy, give it a spin today and indulge all over again!