The last few years have been especially cruel to Emeralds fans. Not only was the synth-minded group’s last album 2012’s Just to Feel Anything met with a lukewarm response but the Cleveland experimenters unceremoniously broke up shortly thereafter. Luckily Emeralds’ guitar guru Mark McGuire is the latest member to pick up the pieces and try to move on.
Originally released in Japan last year Along the Way follows an insanely prolific run of solo albums from the L.A.-based McGuire. But while his umpteenth record attempts to step into the future it’s hardly a clean break from his past.
Tied together by the loose concept of finding inner meaning and enlightenment the album branches out not only thematically but also instrumentally as McGuire pairs his Manuel Göttsching-inspired guitar theatrics with everything from mellotrons pianos and strings to mandolins and Far East melodies.
However the ghosts of Just to Feel Anything still linger with its “vaporwave” tendencies rearing up via digital drum textures heavily treated vocals and some glitchy electronic experimentation. It all leaves a processed and at times downright artificial aftertaste ditching all signs of the exploratory rawness and loose spontaneity you could once expect from a McGuire record.
Still Along the Way isn’t so much a disappointment as it is a frustration: McGuire is clearly struggling to start anew while keeping one foot firmly planted in a past best forgotten.