Considering that Elder Brother by themselves are very much small fries within an enormous emo pond, you certainly won’t be able to tell. Dan Rose and Kevin Geyer’s experiences in Daybreaker and The Story So Far respectively might have laid down the foundations, but on its own, this is the sort of side project that could go blow for blow with any number of established acts. Rather than another throwaway pop-punk side-project destined to be forgotten after one outing, Elder Brother have done a good job over the past few years at keeping the quality high to ensure that’s not the case.
And on Stay Inside, this is perhaps the most definitive proof of their longevity yet, a deep, solemn slow burn of an album that, if it hadn’t been for The Wonder Years hitting just a slightly higher bar with the same sort of thing, would be the best emo album released in 2018. Even if it does take a few listens to fully unfurl, the emotional richness and openness of this album can’t be ignored, inspired by the exorbitant statistics of heroin usage in Rose’s hometown of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and the experiences with addiction that seemingly everyone has had. It makes the deliberate sense of inevitability all the better; the promise to stick around with someone at their lowest, even as their addiction begins to take hold further and further on You & Me Forever and Weak Days simmers and swells with intermingled layers of depth, before the realisation that friends and loved ones will have to be buried on Earthbound before the cycle starts all over again on I Don’t Think It Stops. It’s genuinely affecting stuff, and with the numbness in Rose’s voice and thousand-mile stare in his approach, it’s indicative of a person who’s seen it all before and has become palpable desensitised from it.
A similar idea is put forward in the music, too, with breathing, languid passages merging into the huge soundscapes that Elder Brother can control masterfully. There’s a necessary calmness and mellowness to tracks like Stay that swings through a good portion of the album, as guitars shimmer and chime beneath the beautiful, glassy production that holds the sense of melancholy and reservation perfectly. Across the board the construction of this album is excellent, simmering without ever going out completely, and fully bursting into flames in its final moments, in the tense churn of Earthbound and the white-hot catharsis of I Don’t Think It Stops’ solo. It’s certainly a testing listen, one that runs the gamut of emotions without ever hiding its real intent and engulfs the listener at every possible turn.
And sure, Elder Brother may be somewhat derivative of numerous acts to whom this brand of emo is rather familiar, but when it’s done to this extent and put through the wringer as much as Stay Inside is, that’s an easy nitpick to look past. In reality, for new, high-quality emo of any stripe, this should be one of the first ports of call, as Elder Brother put in probably the most convincing audition imaginable for the genre’s upper echelons. It’s definitely worth investing plenty of time into this one; there’s a lot to unpack and appreciate, but plenty to gain at the same time.
For fans of: The Wonder Years, Transit, The Dangerous Summer
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Stay Inside’ by Elder Brother is released on 18th May on Pure Noise Records.