Empire! Empire! (I was a Lonely Estate)

Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) is undoubtedly a band on the move. The Michigan quartet’s latest 7-inch, Year Of The Rabbit (available from Count Your Lucky Stars Records), is proof of that. Conceived in 2006 as a solo project of Keith Latinen, Empire! Empire!’s first release, When the Sea Became a Giant, received critical acclaim from press and peers alike. It was the kind of record that created a rush of nostalgia for fans 90s’ indie / emo. Now, backed by a full band, Year Of The Rabbit continues down that same path forged by Latinen, but offers even more definition and purpose to the unmistakable sound.

Unabashedly fueled with passion and honesty, Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) is a band intent on touching the listener. Latinen describes the sound as “a throwback to really pretty, heart-on-your-sleeve, gut-wrenching stuff — that when you listen, you can tell the artist is pouring their heart out.”

This is what epitomizes the music of Empire! Empire!; it strives for a visceral connection between artist and listener. Year Of The Rabbit finds the band honing their skills and moving even closer to that goal. The instruments rise and fall as they carve out their own niche behind the charismatic Latinen. His vocals are moving and his words breathe sincerity. Harkening back to a simpler time — when emotion was real and never calculated — it’s impossible not to feel Empire! Empire!. The band leaves no doubt they are growing into something amazing right before our eyes. We’re just lucky to have the opportunity to watch it all unfold.

Two years before Free Throw formed in Nashville, the Memphis Grizzlies made national headlines for their ͞grit and grind.͟ Some not familiar with basketball may assume this was another phrase describing the team’s tireless work ethic. Journalists and analysts claimed this ͞grit and grind͟ was their disruptive defense. A free throw is usually given to a player disrupted by defense -- so while unintentionally borrowing the ethos of their home state’s NBA franchise, Free Throw went on the offensive. Consider the band’s signature play: a three-guitar attack which stacks raw immediacy with large-scale aspirations. Sometimes this arrangement is abrasive; other times it’s more nuanced. What connects these two different threads is Cory Castro’s frayed vocals, gaining their power from a violent shout and their confessions from a measured whimper. Combine that range with a set of lyrical themes that play out like an uneasy three-way phone call and what remains fills speakers with a darkness offset by instrumentals which sway and bend with warm nostalgia.

But what fills most of Free Throw’s golden playbook is a commitment to winning their own way. After strings of DIY touring circuits and an intense love affair with their van, it’s clear to see their blooming, road-tested legacy answers to no one but their enthusiastic audiences. With their live sets packing rooms across the country, not without alcohol and crowd sing-alongs in tow, it seems this grind has paid off so far, with the grit packing their songs with not just unrelenting talent, but the forward-thinking energy to match.




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