Emery is multifaceted: the South Carolina band, which relocated to Seattle in the early 2000s to sign with Tooth & Nail records, has experimented with tender harmonies, up-beat, dancelike grooves, and even the occasional breakdown by way of Josh Head's high-pitched, howling screams. And after 10 years, it would only make sense that a greatest-hits is in order. But is it?
Their breakout album with T&N, 2004's The Weak's End, played with the beauty of tightly wound, emotional lyrics over climactic keys and lead vocalist Toby Morrell's fervid vocals in songs such as "Walls" and "Fractions." With just enough screaming to tickle your ears, but not nearly enough to bunch up your girl pants, Emery helped segue fans between the gentler genre of post-hardcore and the highly dissonant, oh-my-god-they're-stabbing-the-singer hardcore.
The band experimented more with layered vocals and harmonies on 2005's The Question--a record that perserved the same tenacity of The Weak's End, but very well might have surpassed it in terms of utter talent and musicianship with songs such as "Studying Politics" and "Listening to Freddie Mercury."
Though the release of 2007's I'm Only a Man boasted "Rock-N-Rule," an energetic and overbearing tune akin to the last 20 seconds of "Walls," the rest of the record fell short of the bar they had set for themselves in years past and kicked off the "quiet years" for Emery.
In Shallow Seas We Sail and We Do What We Want, released in 2009 and 2011 respectively, confirmed what many had feared for years--Emery, while constantly growing, had become stale and predictable. No more surprises awaited in the music; it was as if the formula had been figured out.
Ten Years is a solid mixtape of the band's best hits, but hardly a substitute for the band's earlier work (as cliché as it may sound). Skip the hits and pick up The Weak's End and The Question used.