(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Album Review: Emmy the Great – S EP

By on Tuesday, 13th January 2015 at 12:00 pm

I’ve followed Emma-Lee Moss’ career with great interest upon hearing the beautifully heartbreaking single ‘We Almost Had a Baby’ from her debut album. Emmy the Great’s ‘First Love’ was released a good 5 years ago now and while both it and her 2011 LP follow-up ‘Virtue’ were released on Moss’ own label Close Harbour Records, her forthcoming EP ‘S’ this month will be released on Simon Raymonde’s celebrated Bella Union label.

It’s unclear whether her addition to the Bella Union roster has resulted in a permanent change in direction, but what is evident in the EP’s first single ‘Swimming Pool’ is her experimentation beyond the usual singer/songwriter-y sound with which Moss has made her name under the Emmy the Great moniker. ‘Swimming Pool’ is a breathy, diaphanous work that skirts the line between a choral hymn and dream pop, described well in the press sheet as “replete with rippling keys and dream laden bass”. If there’s a guitar in here, it’s hidden very well. Tom Fleming of Wild Beasts also makes a surprising and welcome vocal guest appearance on the single, shadowing Moss’ voice on the chorus. The guitar does return in ‘Social Halo’ but like in ‘Swimming Pool’, there is a dreamy, floating feeling throughout the song. Despite its theme of awkwardness in social situations, the track also feels vaguely Christmassy with glittering chimes, as if to take some of the edge off the anxiety.

Moss says the songwriting on this EP reflects looking outward to the outside world versus her own internal musings that inspired her first two albums: “My previous recordings were a reflection of my internal world, but this is a record of me trying to engage with the outside. Over the course of travelling and touring for the last two years I inhabited many cities and landscapes.” ‘Solar Panels’ is the most obvious example of this shift, as Moss’ lyrics seem oddly wooden against the backdrop of booming synthesisers, speaking of “Japanese / companies are making energy / from the heat in California”. Sonically, it’s very jarring to hear such a synthesised sound from Emmy the Great. It’s like, what’s next? Is Calvin Harris going to jump out from behind the mirage?

Thankfully, closing track ‘Somerset (I Can’t Get Over)’ brings it all back to more familiar territory. The sweet, lilting quality of Moss’ vocals, full of wistful emotion yet with characteristic Emmy the Great restraint, is front and centre here, even if there are a lonely percussive beat (a spoon?) and purposefully dreamy effects effects on the guitar line. The desire to hear an acknowledgment from her lover that she won’t be forgotten rings forlorn and true. Although I’m not a huge fan of this change in direction, this one song makes me hopeful Moss hasn’t given up everything we knew and loved about Emmy the Great. Let’s see how 2015 pans out for her, shall we?


‘S’, the forthcoming EP from singer/songwriter Emmy the Great, will be released next Monday, on the 26th of January, on Bella Union. She’ll be touring the UK later this month. It was also just announced on 13 January that Emmy will be showcasing at SXSW 2015 in Austin in March.

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