Longtime (and former, but also current?) Emery bassist Devin Shelton started experimenting with solo material years before parting ways with the band. Working under the clever name Devinitely (which is still his Twitter handle), Shelton posted several R&B-style tracks to his MySpace account when he was getting started; it was a surprising turn from the heavier, emo music fans were used to through Emery. Though his first album, 2011's Life & Death, was more alternative-based, 2017 sees the artist once again leaning toward the poppier material as he joins the BadChristian family for Sensation.
Sensation is an interesting album, as it's slightly hard to define; one moment, it's a pop rock ballad ("Howl at the Moon"), another moment it's dancey ("Dance Tonight"), and occasionally it's alternative ("Buried Alive"). Yet, despite the current genre, it consistently has melodies that really bring you back into an Emery mindset ("Just Another Song" and "Tide"). Though, to be fair, the variety really does lend itself to a rather cohesive project, and it sounds like Shelton's own work instead of like an Emery clone. There's certainly quite a bit to like about Sensation, but where it loses points is in its lack of ability to fully catch attention. No doubt, some listeners have put this album on repeat, and that's understandable. But I've listened through the whole album multiple times, and most of those times were only for the sake of understanding it well enough to critique it. Admittedly, I find myself perplexed by the clearly solid attributes this album has to offer, yet its inability to be memorable or as enjoyable as I wish that it was.
Again, I don't doubt that many listeners, Emery fans or not, have found much to enjoy about Sensation. And rightfully so; it has air-tight production, catchy melodies, and relatable lyrics. But overall, it isn't very engaging, and that's something worth considering as well. If you've enjoyed Sensation, don't let this review even come close to changing your mind. If you were thinking about checking it out, do it, because for every somewhat indifferent review of an album, there are a hundred people who love it, and you might be one of them.
- Review date: 2/4/17, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com