August 14, 2015 Emmy the Great – S (Album Review)
If the latest release of Emmy the Great is to be regarded as an indicator of what her current music direction is, then the already familiar should realize that this EP S is collectively a more laid-back, ambient, and sparse-sounding affair yet still carried the Indie Folk sensibilities of its predecessors. This description owes to the fact that the songs in S, albeit still sounding Indie and Folk-like, have slower tempos and had used string orchestration as the foundation of the songs’ structures with the usual vibrato-flavored guitars as the carrier of the melodies.
Emmy the Great is actually the moniker of Emma-Lee Moss, a London-based solo artist who was born in Hong Kong in 1984 to an English father and a Chinese mother. She was raised in Hong Kong until the age of twelve, when her family settled back in England. Her career properly began in 2006, with the release of her first single, “Secret Circus.” She eventually released her debut full-length album, entitled First Love, in 2009. The songs here (particularly, the waltzy “Absentee,” the playful “The Easter Parade,” and the fast Country-influenced “Bad Things Coming, We Are Safe”) are rich in Indie Pop’s melodic characteristics—think of Camera Obscura. The others (“We Almost Had a Baby” and “On the Museum Island”) are reminiscent of the introspective acoustic approach of singer-songwriters like Bic Runga (“Sway”), Faye Wong (“Eyes on Me”), Utada Hikaru (“First Love”), and Julie Delpy (particularly “A Waltz for a Night” and Delpy’s other songs in her and Ethan Hawke’s 2004 film Before Sunset). This was followed by 2011’s Virtue, which contains Emmy the Great’s more upbeat and driving songs, such as “Iris” and “Sylvia.” Then, in January 2015, as an obvious teaser for what her fans and would-be fans can expect from her next full-length album, Emmy the Great releases the EP S.
S consists of four songs, each of whose title starts with the letter ‘S.’ It opens with the slow and sparse ballad “Swimming Pool”—which, because of the orchestral synth drench and buried-in-the-mix backup choral voices, gives off a vibe of Enigma (“Mea Culpa” and “Return to Innocence”). Following next is “Social Halo,” another beautiful ballad carried by vibrato-tinged guitar plucks, subtle angular guitar strums, and the heartfelt vocal rendition of the singer’s seeming penchant for distance and coldness, as expressed in the lyrics: “Oh no, everything’s moving so close… / I like you when you’re so cold….”
“Solar Panels” is the album’s highlight—upbeat, tribal, mildly Grunge-sounding, and has that Rave and Trance danceability. Finally, “Somerset” is a perfect closer—slow, somber, literarily sweet, and lyrically sublime; dropping names of classic authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, and W. Somerset Maugham.
“Please don’t get over me…,” Emmy the Great’s last words in her latest work. With her beautiful music and lyrics, anyone would certainly not get over the name Emmy the Great after listening to S, and this will surely inspire the listener to look forward to the next album and, in the meantime, to revisit her previous works. CrypticRock gives Emmy the Great’s S 4 out of 5 stars.