Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) What It Takes to Move Forward

With a host of bands from emo's glory days reuniting recently (Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbox, Cap'n Jazz), there isn't a lot of room for new bands to stake a claim, but these Michigan darlings and their yearn-by-numbers full-length debut are hard to dismiss. As the group behind the Count Your Lucky Stars label, Empire! Empire! are purveyors of some of the finest homage-heavy emo bands in the U.S., so it's only fair that they too indulge their passions: sprawling, intricate guitar passages and over-earnest vocal emoting, and on album standout "With Your Greatest Fears Realized You'll Never Be Comforted," a gentle curveball in the form of banjos. It's the shortest song ― the only one under four minutes ― and the accompanying strings and horns steer it towards current indie rock trends, but the anti-melody Ben Gibbard cooing gives it the distinct stamp of the band's biggest influences. They sound best on songs like "It's a Plague and You're Invited," where they play with the dynamics their forefathers gave them, casting contemplation aside to reveal the true inner workings of a band that are just starting to tap into their resources. (Count Your Lucky Stars)