In review: Emmy the Great – First Love
I don’t really spend much time networking with the doyens of the London indie scene, but I have spent some brief time in the company of Emmy the Great: she was waitressing at some 50s revivalist kitsch-ass neo-burlesque bullshit I was dragged along to once. And being completely unmoved by a load of people who spend a week’s wages on charity shop clothing dancing to the fucking Andrews Sisters, I became struck with exactly the same thought every time I saw Emmy TG, as she scooted around in rollerskates doling out Earl Grey and fairy cakes: that girl has a harelip. The people I was with assured me it was just smeared lipstick, but why smear in the middle of the mouth and not the corners? Every time I’ve brought it up with the movers and shakes of the British music journalism scene since (read: I once mentioned it to a guy who wrote for The Fly), I get blank looks. Google does nothing to help. And as for staring at promo images… well, if Jesse Jackson and Joaquin Phoenix, two men who look like they’d struggle to navigate their way around a makeup box, can disguise their cleft palettes, I’m sure an arty Londoner in her early 20s could. So I therefore conclude that Emmy the Great has a harelip. Regardless of deformity: I worry this album has come too late. The girl was releasing singles three years ago and making MP3 blog radar noises in late 2005. There’s no real justification for taking four whole years to drop product unless there were major label dickmoves involved or, like Vincent and the Villains, you wanted to end up as a good old fashioned industry punchline upon your LP dropping. It… may have been worth the wait. I’m not entirely sure. Don’t expect revolution here: this is by the numbers “girl and her guitar”, couple of songs about relationships, couple of wailing songs, couple of kooky numbers, all put together with a presentable but female-friendly face. The main reference point for Emmy’s voice seems to be English folk music: there’s something every so slightly “hey nonny nonny” village fete about her vocals, high pitches without ever being too girly, and there’s even some strings thrown in there to exacerbate the sensation. Album opener “Absentee” would even work for a Morris dancing display on Strictly Come Dancing, before it turns the heat up with a pretty good “Haha, I bet you thought ‘Hallelujah’ was by Jeff Buckley originally” gag. Is this type of stuff still called “urban folk” these days, or did Jamie T ruin that name? Regardless, “We Almost Had A Baby” spends 50% of its time coming across as unexpectedly ambushed by emotion as a woman reading Take A Break in a doctor’s surgery, and 50% shimmering like spotlights in those 40s teadance halls. “MIA” is probably the first ever song about every hipster’s favourite apologist for suicide bombing civilians, while “City Song” wraps everything up as delicately and frustrated as everything else on here. This is probably a good album. ILB has stanned hard for Hello Saferide in the past, and there’s probably a good shout at a direct comparison here: HS is clearly more “lyrical” while ETG is more “pretty”, they both decided to make their lead single of their most recent album about babies that never existed, and they both make enjoyable music. I just worry that the latter falls short in comparison to the former. Still, to have made it this far in life with a harelip is a stunning achievement, and one you have to take your hat off to.
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