For Everest’s debut full-length is fixated on the body — as a prison, as a means of control, as a potential escape. Its title, We Are At Home In The Body, suggests an eventual balance, a light at the end of the tunnel, but the songs contained within were written in the throes of transition. Since the release of their most recent EP in 2014 — No Jazz Rock, which led us to name them a Band To Watch — primary vocalists and lyricists Sarah Cowell and Nick Pitman both went through identity shifts, and their new songs are infused with a renewed urgency and poignancy as they attempt to come to terms with their standing in the world. “The body is a mistake,” they sing on the penultimate track. “We spend our lives undoing what was made/ We’ve been built, but we’re not complete/ We exist, but are we worth remembering?”
To add even more complexity on top of an already confusing situation, the album also deals with mental health and a reliance on prescription medication as a means to return to normalcy, all the while questioning what normal even means. “I take what they tell me to feel like myself, but I’m not so sure of when I became someone else,” Cowell sings on “Slurpee Pt. 2,” a track that climaxes with the line: “If I feel like nothing, eventually I will feel nothing at all.” The overarching themes of the album are intrinsically tied together, two intense experiences that go side-by-side and feed off each other, exacerbate one another. The album is about feeling disconnected from yourself when that “self” is constantly shifting, and trying anything you can to find some sort of inner harmony.
They channel all of this anxiety and tension and negotiating into crystalline, theatrical melodic emo. The album was produced by Chris Teti at Silver Bullet Studios, where the World Is A Beautiful Place’s Harmlessness was also recorded, and it shares that masterpiece’s epic sweep and studied layering. (It also features that band’s David F. Bello as a guest vocalist on one track, and strings from Nick Kwas throughout.) Each instrument comes through clear and distinctive, which lends itself well to each song’s dramatic swells. This isn’t subtle music, and it doesn’t beat around the bush. It confronts the shackles of identity through thinly-veiled metaphors: “I’m In A Boxcar Buried Inside A Quarry” is one of the song titles; on “Autonomy,” Cowell echoes the same sensation of being trapped: “The engine’s on fire and I’m stuck inside/ I said I was fine and I lied.” What the band lacks in subtlety they make up for in heartbreaking honesty and immediacy.
Cowell’s voice is massive and soulful, belting out things that would be hard to simply say out loud. Like how depression and displacement bleeds into every aspect of your life, tearing apart relationships and forcing you to push everyone away: “It’s just a matter of time before you leave, or I’ll make you wish you had,” they predict on “Penny Royalty.” Or how your newfound independence and ideologies may put you at odds with the people who raised you: “You are silent on the way home because your parents said something racist, and you don’t call them anymore.” Or the feeling of hopelessness in the face of necessary change: “Sometimes you can’t get over what you’re going through.”
But for all the upheaval that the band tackles through these tracks, the takeaway is one of empowerment. We Are At Home In The Body stands as a phrase that offers relief. One of the most powerful moments on the album comes at the end of its thrashing centerpiece, “I’m In A Boxcar Buried Inside A Quarry”: “I don’t want a body/ If I’m just a body/ Don’t touch me.” It’s a phrase that’s repeated over and over, punctuated by booming drums that add to the very real life-or-death threat of an existential crisis. It speaks to the distance that engulfs someone who feels all alone, but it also hints at a way out: Finding a home in what you were given, carving out your own space in less-than-ideal circumstances. To not be just a body. That goes for matters of identity, but also of friendship and love and facing the world at large.
Listen to the full album via Impose below.