Emmy The Great is somebody I’ve always gone to for a bit of nice, inoffensive, twee folk. It’s the kind of music you’d expect to hear over the credits of a painfully indie film, or maybe an advert for life insurance. Either way, as far as I’m concerned, Emmy shouldn’t be waiting on any Grammys just yet. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy listening to her, because I do. In fact, We Almost Had A Baby by Emmy The Great is one of those really great pieces of vulnerable songwriting due to the Juno-y subject matter, not to mention the fact that Emmy’s voice is so small-sounding, you’d be forgiven for thinking she was a mouse in a Disney movie.
To be honest with you, since First Love I’ve been utterly ignoring Emmy The Great’s activities. That was a great standalone album, perfect filler during that bit of the morning in between when you get out of bed and when you’re ready to face the irritations of the outside world. With this new EP, named simply S, I’m dipping my toes back into the world of Emmy The Great.
In the time between her LP and S, it seems as though things have been getting a bit weird for Emma-Lee Moss. Where her lyrics used to be just about offbeat enough to be kooky and charming, they now seem to be outright weird. Let me give you a couple of examples. First off, in the bridge of Solar Panels: “Japanese companies are making energy off the heat in California”. This kind of weird eco-political statement-making is alternated with tell of some kind of Tokyo-California-Cumbria tryst. And that’s just the lyrical content. The instrumentals have gone all topsy-turvy too, and where there used to be clumsily strummed acoustic guitar, there’s now a mixture of rock guitar and Calvin Harris big room synths. I just don’t get it all. Maybe I’m just not on her level.
The best track on the EP is definitely Social Halo, and that’s because Emmy’s playing to her strengths: vulnerable vocals and noodled guitars. She even manages to integrate some elements to great success. A cheesy electric guitar picks away over the track in a way that’s totally new for Emmy. The song builds to a nice atmospheric chorus with a really simple lyrical conceit and sparkly noises. Nice, simple stuff. Then again, her lyrics are still unaccountably weird and/or crap depending on how forgiving you’re willing to be: “I like you when you’re so cold, the opposite of volcano, volcano”. I suppose she’s just reaching out to that untapped market of listeners who are more familiar with what a volcano feels like than with the very concept of cold. Who am I to judge?
Swimming Pool, with a guest feature from Tom Fleming, is one of those odd tracks that just seems to be constantly building to nowhere in particular. It gives a vague sense of wistfulness and romance, but without really tying anything together to become cohesive. When it comes to who the guest vocalist actually is, other than some bloke called Tom Fleming, I can’t tell you much. A cursory Google search is telling me that Tom Fleming was a Scottish actor of Macbeth and King Lear fame, who died in 2010. Either Emmy’s getting even weirder than I originally thought, or I’ve got the wrong fella.
Overall, I’m going to have to say that this record is a bit of a disappointment. It’s hard to be pleased with a record when the best release uses the concept of a volcano to describe what cold is. I’m sorry but I just can’t let that go.