Friday, 2 January 2009

Emmy the Great - First Love (Close Harbour 2009)

This is the first great album of 2009 and that's the double truth Ruth. We've blogged about Emmy and her voice and its delicate candour. Now the album's here and you must hear it. Forget Laura Marling and those other acoustic female singer-songwriters, the only name you need to care about (apart from Alela Diane- review forthwith) is Emmy the Great. Comprising Emmy and Euan and other players, this album is a pop culture tour of the heart. Acoustic and largely flitting about from folk to antifolk to Americana to torch singer, it doesn't conform to any one style or delivery. Opener 'Absentee' with its accordion pulse, builds from a delicate confessional opening into a folk wall of sound, pushing higher and higher as backing singers, accordion, mandolin and a marching almost bluegrass drum all creep in swelling the noise. '24' is both sweet and funny as it destroys the mystery of obsessive boys obsessively immersing themselves in things like television ('24' in this case) and the world passing them by, relationships passing them by and all the while we sit on our disappointments, drowned in culture that we have no hope of replicating. Emmy suggests that we watch Jack Bauer religiously and this fiction character has achieved more in a minute than the lazy boy in question has done in his life, now Emmy has left him. She could have been his one. 'We Almost Had a Baby', the lead single is all about consequences and what-could-have-beens as Emmy deals with potential pregnancies and the apathy of the father. Her ability to turn small events into bigger themes is brilliant. In this case, she seethes quietly as we're led to the conclusion. The 50's guitars on this and the ooo-wop melodies make it more poignant and sad, pregnantly playing on her every word. 'Dylan' is a marching country stomp of a song, all clapping snares and dipping violins falling and bristling with promise and bluster. After the wondrous swooning 'First Love' we get 'MIA' the album highlight, a riposte to a car crash and a car crash love affair, singing what was on the radio as the car splayed its guts in the rain. As a synth accordion swells over the delicate strum of the strums and the melancholy of the riff, Emmy's voice is right there at the front of the music. The tone of her voice belies a multitude of emotions from sad to happy to sarcastic to sweet. It is a voice to fall in love to and 'MIA' (who is incidentally on the radio when the car crashes) is the perfect showcase for the extraordinary plaintive singing of this young woman. 'City Song' closes the album with a love letter to London, a bare boned acoustic guitar and voice. All in all, this is a sweet delicate and emotively visual album full of pop culture references, in-jokes, sardonic humour and beautiful metaphors. This is the first best album of 2009 and should be on many lists. There aren't many dull moments here, it carries the same mystery and beauty that Joanna Newsom commands. Laura who? This is where to be. My 'First Love' of 2009.

(Check previous posts for 'MIA' and 'We Almost Had a Baby vids. Here is one for the excellent anti-religious 'Easter Parade':)



Oh and City Song:

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