Written in 2018 during a time of personal change, the new album from indie singer songwriter Emmy the Great is a lovely collection of songs which feel like a welcome bloom of springtime air in this uncertain autumn.
There has always been a wonderfully wry humour and dry sense of self-deprecation weaving through Emma Lee Moss’s songwriting. In her youth this seemed like a fun indie folk trope but now it’s a comfortable, comforting way of coping with a chaotic world.
The album and song titles indicate a duality in her artistic vision, a celebration of two sides of her identity as half Chinese and British, as well as a nod to the cities of New York and Hong Kong where she has been recently splitting her time. The opening song introduces us to her heritage, a mixture of Chinese spoken word and dreamy swirls.
Writer tells us of her artistic routine, inviting us into her world. The irony of lines like ‘I’m a writer now and everything is sunny / I put down all the words for the money’ is perfectly pitched.
Dandelions / Liminal is a quietly infectious little indie pop song, jaunty enough so that you could almost miss the profound moments as the wisps float past you.
Change-E takes us on a literal journey, leaving behind New York City and moving across the world, and also connecting her trip to an ancient Chinese fable of a woman who drank the elixir of immortality and ascended to the moon. Like that beacon in the sky the song is luminous.
There’s so many interesting ideas in the songs here – lyrically and musically. A Window/O’Keeffe has much to say on social media and art and connection and love and fame. And in these dying days of summertime / I think I know exactly who I am, she concludes, finding clarity in her contemplations.
Okinawa / Ubud takes us further into her Chinese heritage with the layers of traditional music adding distinctive qualities to her sound. Mary is more stark musically, yet offers kindness to a cruel fortune teller who cursed her with bad luck.
By the end of the album she describes herself as ‘A tangerine in the summer breeze’ and ‘A bud on a lemon tree’ heading towards the light of a fresh beginning.
April / 月音 is the best album of Emmy the Great’s career, inventive and inviting throughout. A much needed heart sutra for us all.