The act of reviewing, be that art, food, history or people, often revolves around the search for beauty in the ugliness of the world, be that drawing joy from the most nihilistic of black metal, or desperately trying to find something positive to say about U2. This is something Nervus songwriter Em Foster has taken to heart with sophomore album Everything Dies, which hacks bluntly through the prejudice and insecurity that comes with coming out trans to reflect on the joy, strength and comfort found within. Although not strictly a concept piece, the album does have a strong narrative, tracking Em’s journey from birth to death to rebirth to death again, and it shares much in the way of cinematic scope with something like My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade, bursting with positivity over a blue collar pop punk base of Alkaline Trio and Gaslight Anthem, with shades of blink-182, Pixies and Weezer thrown in for good measure. Tracks like Congratulations and The Way Back seem both melancholy and effervescent at the same time, balancing a lifetime of emotion on the kind of huge pop hooks that throwaway chart smashes about girls and summer are made of, but the real stars are Foster’s melodies and lyrics, which make the most personal of stories relatable to literally any walk of life. Throughout, she sings with a bold fragility that mirrors the album’s themes of fear and confidence, occasionally sorrowful but never pitiful, refusing to wallow in anger or vulnerability, and instead cutting a jubilant path that celebrates rather than commiserates. Everything Dies is not only emotional, for both performer and listener, but also achingly catchy, and disarmingly intimate. Even on first listen, by the time album closer Fall Apart arrives, the transition is complete, subject and object as one, and the music feels so familiar that, despite being entirely its own song, it sounds like a reprise. Roughly half way through this journey, Foster sings “3,000 words rattle around my mind, I lack the skill to deliver them”, but it’s time to trust us, Em, you don’t.
Everything Dies is released 9 March via Big Scary Monsters