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An open letter to the students of UMass -

March 24, 2017

Pat Kelsey informs UMass AD Ryan Bamford of change of heart just 35 minutes before scheduled press conference -

March 23, 2017

Past and present UMass football players participate in 2017 Pro Day Thursday -

March 23, 2017

Pat Kelsey reportedly backs down from UMass men’s basketball coaching position -

March 23, 2017

Students react to new fence around Townehouses -

March 23, 2017

‘Do You Have The Right To Do Drugs?’ debate held in Bowker Auditorium -

March 23, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse looks to build on three-game winning streak against Brown -

March 23, 2017

UMass softball riding five-game win streak into first Atlantic 10 showdown -

March 23, 2017

Sanzo: Inability to win close games has hurt UMass baseball -

March 23, 2017

Hannah Murphy scores 100th career goal in UMass women’s lacrosse 16-9 win over Harvard -

March 23, 2017

Old age does no harm to indie rock legends The Feelies -

March 23, 2017

A track-by-track breakdown of Drake’s new project -

March 23, 2017

When a president lies -

March 23, 2017

Let them eat steak, and other gender norms I hate -

March 23, 2017

Dissecting Science: Episode Two -

March 22, 2017

Holy Cross 10-run eighth inning sinks UMass baseball -

March 22, 2017

UMass students react to Spring Concert lineup -

March 22, 2017

Letter: Vote yes for Amherst -

March 22, 2017

You don’t have to walk alone -

March 22, 2017

Tyler Bogart and D.J. Smith lead UMass men’s lacrosse during three game win streak -

March 22, 2017

Sinai Vessel’s ‘Brokenlegged’ is a luminous example of why emo has endured

(Daniel White/Sinai Vessel Official Facebook Page)

For those of us whose adolescence arrived during the commercial heyday of “emo,” there are inevitably certain associations with the genre that must be contended with.

For some, it will provoke memories of scribbling dramatic poetry in notebooks, or staring out of a car window thinking about how these faraway punk bands understood you better than anyone in This Town. Some people may remember their fashion choices and/or haircuts, or which songs soundtracked those many treacherous trips through middle school hallways.

On one level, it’s hard to comprehend how anyone would want to relive any of those memories. And yet one can find wildly popular “emo nights” in venues all across the country. Even in the offices of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian itself, on some nights, you may find groups of editors shouting along to deep cuts in their middle school playlists to power themselves through another long night of production.

Emo is a big-tent genre, incorporating everything from the histrionics of My Chemical Romance,  to the blunt sincerity of Jimmy Eat World, to the cartoonish Sum 41. What binds the genre together though, is a sense of occasion, and a deep sense of self-importance. That self-importance can be suffocating if done wrong, but there’s a great satisfaction to be derived from listening to music that makes every mole hill into a mountain.

It’s called “emo”—short for “emotive hardcore”—for a reason. The one thing every one of its practitioners have in common is that they can take even the most mundane incident or interaction and present it as a life-changing experience. “Brokenlegged,” the second full-length from North Carolina natives Sinai Vessel, does this in spades, in the process demonstrating why emo has proven to be so resilient.

The first thing that stands out about “Brokenlegged,” released Jan. 27, is how unorthodox the production is. Everything from the richly layered arrangements to Caleb Cordes’ note-perfect vocals seems to have been frozen and then re-heated in a microwave, as if you’re not getting the full picture. Listen to it on a bad set of speakers (without headphones on a smartphone for instance) and you’ll really hear how compressed the sound is.

Though irritating at first, this production does actually serve a purpose. The resulting effect is the same as putting a heavy filter on a photograph. Just as seeing an image in black and white, or with its colors altered, would alter your perception of the contents of an image, this listen-through-glass production shifts the way “Brokenlegged” plays. In most instances, this sort of heavy-handed production would likely come off as ridiculous or artificial. But, since this is emo, a genre obsessed with the framing of memories and thoughts, it works beautifully.

Its success hinges on the stirring imagery Cordes packs these songs with. What good would that production do if Cordes—on the standout track “Dogs”—didn’t mention how if his “petty thief” brother “had stuck close to the law/he’d not be lying prostrate in the street”?

On the gorgeous “Died On My Birthday,” Cordes sets the scene at a “cruel, cruel lunch after the funeral,” where “Every missive and dispatch rolls of the tongue/And lands heavy on the table.” Keeping it up, Cordes continues “It rattles our lentil bowls/A whole fortnight of meals left cold in your honor/In your absence/In our confusion.” #Deep enough for you?

Jokes aside, one has to tip their hat to Sinai Vessel, whose brilliantly fleshed-out arrangements and remarkable chemistry as an ensemble are the perfect vehicles for Cordes’ cinematic lyrics. “Brokenlegged” took over five years to create, and the exhaustive perfectionism that went into it is on full display.

Each one of its many layers is vital to the end product, an album that’ll give you that same comfort and satisfaction that your favorite emo band of yore gave you all those years ago.

Jackson Maxwell can be reached at jlmaxwell@umass.edu and followed on Twitter at @JMaxwell82.

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