EDITORIAL: 10 Years of Emanuel’s ‘Soundtrack to a Headrush’

In September of 2005, I enrolled in an introductory guitar course through my high school, certain that a few tricky bar chords were all that separated me from a rock star life on the road. Unfortunately, the whole musician thing didn’t really pan out, and I ended up doing a lot more socializing than shredding.

A short ways into the semester, I began talking to an older kid named Mark, and we became fast friends through our shared love of alternative music. I was into just about anything that “the scene” unanimously approved of, while Mark’s tastes were considerably less mainstream.

“Dude, I’ve got something you’re going to love,” Mark said excitedly one day as we looked for reasons to not learn “Green Sleeves.” “They’re called Emanuel, and they’re super good.”

He handed me his headphones and it was all over. Within seconds, I was surrounded on all sides by the southern-twanged opening riff of “Hey Man!,” and I was in love.

Catchy, cutting, and occasionally out of control, I feel the most appealing aspect of this release was, and still is, its unforgiving attitude. Every track on Soundtrack to a Headrush seems to boil with an uncompromising self-assurance, and though the same could be said for a lot of albums, this record in particular feels defined by its disparities.

A no-bullshit blend of heavy and catchy, Emanuel almost always vie for the head-on approach, a practice that was not always common during the mid-2000s. As trend-toting headliners built careers around synth-laden breakdowns, these five dudes from Kentucky seemed perfectly at home within their own abrasive undertakings, and as a wayward 16-year-old, I thought that was just the coolest. These guys knew they were different from other bands, and they didn’t care. They were gritty, they were in your face, and if you didn’t like it, you could “get the fuck out.”

To some, this outlook may sound juvenile, and maybe in some ways it is, but at the time, it represented everything I wanted and more–to be comfortable in my own skin regardless of what anyone else thought. As a perpetually pissed-off teen, Matt Breen’s seething delivery resonated with me more than any coach or guidance counselor, and before long, his infectious call-to-arms was the centerpiece of my growing musical palette.

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of varying opinions on this album, and after a lot of reflection, I’ve decided that I prefer to think of Emanuel’s debut full-length as one thing only—obstinately kick-ass. While Soundtrack to a Headrush may not be the most groundbreaking release of the past decade, like a firecracker in a coffee can, this record brings the boom. “Hey Man!” still rips like a bat out of hell, and the opening seconds of “The Hotline” are just as devastating as they were ten years ago. Sure, some of the lyrics are a bit more angst-ridden than I remember, but this LP can still get me moving, which is more than I can say for a lot of albums from 2005.

I could write for hours about all the good times I associate with this record, but I’ll spare you the melodramatics and instead let the tunes do the talking. Stream Soundtrack to a Headrush below and rock out to one of the best-kept secrets of the past ten years.

Editorial written by Kyle Florence
‘Soundtrack to a Headrush’ turned 10 yesterday, March 15.

Kyle Florence
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