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Video(s) of the Moment #2083: Emmy the Great

 
By on Wednesday, 11th May 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

Earlier this year, Emma-Lee Moss, better known by her stage name Emmy the Great, released her third album ‘Second Love’. (No, that’s not a typo, it’s really her third album.) You can read Steven’s review of the LP here. ‘Second Love’ is available now from Bella Union.

Included on the album is a track called ‘Constantly’, and the song has inspired not just one, but two promo videos. I suppose I should have guessed this might have happened one day, owing to the fact that Moss was born in Hong Kong and is half-Chinese. But I’m amused this has happened: the two promo videos are unique in that she has made English and Chinese language versions. Further, it’s presented karaoke-style with the lyrics running across the screen as Emmy sings them, so if you wanted to, you could learn to speak and read Chinese at the same time. Ha! Watch your preferred version of the video – or both – below.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryngNI6f7Oc[/youtube]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyFNRiOqmuo[/youtube]

 

Album Review: Emmy the Great – Second Love

 
By on Tuesday, 5th April 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

There’s a certain quaintness to Emmy The Great’s third album. It gently works its way into your consciousness and dances around with an abundance of air and grace, which is impressive for an album whose lyrical content primarily concerns modern life and technology. Of course, this is to be expected from an artist who is essentially the British equivalent of Zooey Deschanel.

The first glimpse into this new effort was the single ’Swimming Pool’, featuring Tom Fleming (Wild Beasts) providing a tenor accompaniment to the chorus that sits wonderfully below Emmy’s heavenly vocals. The track is dreamy in every sense of the word, from the airy instrumentation to the choral backing vocals. It all flows rather nicely into second track ‘Less Than Three’. Here, the lyrical content is darker, harking to the time where you find yourself heartbroken by an instigator who is less than apologetic. She manages to squeeze every ounce of feeling from the words, and with the most innocent of cadences. The song travels along to an almost childish nursery rhyme rhythm.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/JCa5lKjIMJU[/youtube]

One of the strongest weapons in Emmy the Great’s arsenal is her voice. She can reach angelic levels without sacrificing any of the power, which is entirely supportive of her lyricism that is often sweet with hyper-emotive tinges. Most impressively, she uses her lyrical talent to take classic situations such as romance and heartbreak and entwine them with modern phrasing and subjects, such as can be found in ‘Hyperlink’. On it, she takes us through the dating process where a partner “walks me to a cafe, where drinks cost more than music” that is filled with people “tapping keys where once they would read magazines”. The way she employs a poetic rhythm to the words just makes it all the more easier to fall in love with her lyricism.

Not forgetting the instrumentation, throughout the album there is always a mildly fresh sound, something to keep you interested. ‘Constantly’ could quite easily be a cut from a Vampire Weekend record, joyful and preppy but filled with power. ‘Dance W. Me’ takes a dance approach with its electronic beat and haunting backing vocals that are takes of Emmy’s housemates laughing and repeating “dance with me”. The important factor in the latter is the approachability it adds: it creates another dimension where you’re personally involved in the social scenario while seemingly feeling left out.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buyXhDgtfgc[/youtube]

‘Second Love’ is certainly a powerful return for Emmy The Great. The emotion that is delivered is tender and raw: it almost renders you catatonic once it’s over. But then you suddenly feel glad, as if she’s sung every word you’ve never been able to convey. Only one factor that is missing from the album, and that is potentially a faster tempothat would create a roller coaster effect. Almost, where you’re complacent in your mental position when listening ‘til suddenly you’re picked up again, if but briefly, and then put back down. But then again, do we have the emotional capacity to handle it?

8/10

‘Second Love’ is out now on Bella Union. For more on Emmy the Great on TGTF, including her transformation from an anti-folk to electropop artist, go here.

 

Video of the Moment #2040: Emmy the Great

 
By on Thursday, 10th March 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

Tomorrow’s the big day for Emmy the Great! The London-based singer/songwriter, previously known for her sometimes abrasive, anti-folk style of music, made major changes to her sound last year on her ‘S’ EP. Tomorrow, she’ll be releasing her third studio album ‘Second Love’, a nod to her 2009 debut ‘First Love’.

In today’s Video of the Moment, we have the promo for album cut ‘Algorithm’, which takes full advantage of Emmy’s sweet voice, while also incorporating choir harmonies more reminiscent of the pop direction she’s been going towards. As for how it was made, I’ll leave you to read what the press release for the album says about it:


Emmy’s research behind the video “began with shopping and dating algorithms, then moved on to narrative software—such as Wordsmith and Narrative Sciences— which takes data and turns it into narratives. Ultimately, artist Daniel Swan and I decided to ‘ask’ an algorithm to write the video for us.”

They were then helped by Nicolas Seymour-Smith, a programmer and artist to “build a machine that generates music-video treatments using a natural language processing algorithm . We taught the machine what a music video plot was by feeding it synopses of music videos—classics like “Thriller” and “Scream”, and modern favourites from Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. The machine began generating its own plots based on what it had learned and ‘Algorithm’ was born.”. It is truly an original concept, and like her third album, Second Love, one that’s impact lingers long after. A smaller version of the machine is now available on www.emmythegreat.com, to generate your own music video treatment.

Watch the video below. ‘Second Love’ is out tomorrow on Bella Union. For more on Emmy the Great on TGTF, head here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mD9_jRCCzuQ[/youtube]

 

MP3 of the Day #895: Emmy the Great

 
By on Tuesday, 1st March 2016 at 10:00 am
 

Since releasing her EP ‘S’ at the start of last year, anti-folk singer/ songwriter Emmy the Great has turned more pop, adding synths to her sound, a move that would have been unheard of in her 2009 ‘First Love’ days. ‘Second Love’, her third album following the release of the ‘Virtue’ LP in 2011, will be out next Friday on Bella Union.

Emmy is currently in the midst of an American tour, starting the West Coast leg of her time over on our side of the pond tonight, performing at the Bunk Bar in Portland. While on this tour, she’s been closing out her set every night with song ‘We Are Vanished’, which she says is a cover. While we can’t be sure that the act that goes by the name We Are Vanished doesn’t exist, Googling the name only leads you to Emmy’s own version of the song on Soundcloud, so our interest has been significantly piqued into who We Are Vanished is. Or are. Guess it’s a mystery that we’ll have to less Miss E Moss answer herself sometime. Until then, you can listen to and grab her version of ‘We Are Vanished’ for free from the Soundcloud embed below.

‘Second Love’ will be released on the 11th of March on Bella Union.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Live Review: Emmy the Great with Louis Weeks at DC9, Washington DC – 17th February 2015

 
By on Thursday, 19th February 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

A few inches of snow from winter storm Octavia the night before may have put Washington, DC, on temporary city snow emergency status. But it wasn’t enough to keep punters away from the debut appearance of Emmy the Great in our fine city Tuesday night. The DC date was the second in a short string of East Coast dates Emma-Lee Moss and band arranged for this week to support the January release of her latest new material on the ‘S’ EP, now out on Bella Union.

The opener for the evening was Baltimore/Washington musician Louis Weeks, accompanied by his buddy Noah on guitar. Wearing a jumper and tall winter hat with a large puffball on its top, he would have easily blended in with the snowball fighters earlier that day at Meridian Park. While Weeks looked like he was ready to brave the great outdoors, he was keeping his brand of alt dream / folk pop firmly inside the much warmer confines of DC9. The track Weeks chose to start his set, ‘Clementine’, floated on the delicacy of his voice, reminding me of Bon Iver or even a more introspective Jack Johnson making music forlornly in a bedroom.

Weeks later explained that ‘Calder’, though named for the late American sculptor Alexander famous for his mobiles – his largest hangs as a permanent installation to welcome visitors in the modern East Wing of our National Gallery of Art – was also a loving nod to his grandmother, as well as part of his own interest in the process of human ageing. Both songs appear on his 2014 album ‘Shift / Away’, which you can listen to and download for free the entirety of ‘Shift / Away’ from the widget below or from his Bandcamp. Weeks’ stage patter also provided welcome entertainment, by and large amusing the audience, while providing a nice, humble segue to the headline act.

I had waited 7 years to see Emmy the Great live, and I am pleased to say without a doubt, it was worth the wait. Emma-Lee Moss is known for her humour (often self-deprecating) on social media, which has humanised and endeared her to over 12,000 followers strong on Twitter and the nearly 19,000 people who have liked her profile on Facebook. The four songs on the ‘S’ EP are, on varying levels, a departure from her previous anti-folk, singer/songwriter style that she has been most known for. These days, you can count on a long-haired hipster singer/songwriter to be wearing either a t-shirt or plaid and jeans, but not Emmy, whose dark hair was in a neat plait and dressed all in white.

This choice of clothing was, I’m guessing, to provide a dramatic counterbalance to the projections on the a/v screen behind her and her band: two all-black-clad Emmy the Great holograms with dance moves synchronised to all her new songs. Emma herself got into the spirit of things by mimicking the moves, making for a mostly awesome but also admittedly slightly creepy production. But no matter how she was dressed or what the twin projections were up to behind her, there was no denying that her Moss’ voice was peerless and beautiful. She and her band (her brother Robin on guitar and friend Michael on synths, keys and backing vocals) were equally at ease with the newer, electronically charged tunes from ‘S’, including dance thumpy ‘Solar Panels’ and set closer and single ‘Swimming Pool’, as they were with older numbers more suited to an acoustic setting (‘Dinosaur Sex’, ‘Paper Forest’).

Throughout the set, Emma cracked jokes, charming everyone in the room with her disarming nature. Early on she greeted us with, “happy pancake day! Happy belated President’s Day. Happy Valentine’s Day for Saturday. And I hope you have a happy Easter!” Laughter ensued. She quipped later that she and her brother were “wombmates. Stay tuned for the sitcom on Fox this fall”. As if she needed to prove she hadn’t forgotten where she’d come from, they returned for an crowd-sourced encore, performing both ‘We Almost Had a Baby’ and ‘Two Steps Forward’, but not before insisting to the crowd she could not remember how either of them went, then imploring us not to video the songs and post them on YouTube. (Will have to see about that…)

Three new songs – ‘Algorythm’ [sic?], ‘Phoenixes’ and ‘Dance With Me’ – suggest Emmy’s comfort with embracing and going forward with a dreamier, poppier, electronic sound, what she described as “living in a 2.0 world” in my interview with her posted on Monday. One certainly hopes we’ll be seeing album #3 and hearing much more from the lovely Ms. Moss before 2016. At least those of us lucky enough to be in Austin next month for SXSW 2015 will get another chance to see her perform live.

After the cut: Emmy the Great’s set list.
Continue reading (SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Live Review: Emmy the Great with Louis Weeks at DC9, Washington DC – 17th February 2015

 

Interview: Emmy the Great

 
By on Monday, 16th February 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Last month, Emma-Lee Moss aka Emmy the Great released a new EP on Bella Union, ‘S’. Being a fan of hers since her debut album ‘First Love’, I was a little taken aback by her new, electronic-tinged sound and I was very curious to ask her about her new approach to songwriting and how things have changed since she first started. Good timing for this q&a, as she’s starting a short East Coast tour in America tonight at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn and is headed to play for us in Washington, DC tomorrow. And away we go…

Hi Emmy! How are you doing? Where do we find you today and what are you up to?
Hi! I’m at rehearsal in London, just finished rehearsing for an acoustic show we have next week. But I’m also preparing to return to New York and start pre-production for our East Coast tour.

You just released (as of the 26th of January) your latest EP ‘S’ on Bella Union. It’s a departure from your two albums ‘First Love’ and ‘Virtue’ and their anti-folk, unconventional indie leanings. Was there a defining moment that led to your decision to take on a new tack on ‘S’? Does this feel like a brave new world / brand new chapter to the Emmy the Great story?
It felt so necessary and natural to take these musical steps that I almost feel like it would be a bigger shock to the system to have produced another acoustic record. I hope that anyone who knows my music will still get similar feelings from listening, I hope my songs are the same. I think when people hear the record, they will hear what they heard in ‘First Love’, just living in a 2.0 world.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCa5lKjIMJU[/youtube]

The EP’s lead single ‘Swimming Pool’ features guest vocals from Tom Fleming of critically acclaimed Kendal band Wild Beasts. Had you been a fan of the group prior to working with him / were you mutual fans of each other’s work? How did this collaboration come about? Are you pleased with the results? Do you think you might work together again in the future?
I am such a fan of Wild Beasts and Tom’s voice is outrageous and one of the most effortlessly beautiful and haunting voices I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. I met him through Leo Abrahams, who co-produced his last album and played guitar on my record. Then we sort of bonded at a show we both did together, or me and my girlfriends followed him around backstage fussing over him cause he’s so great – one of those. Anyway I have to stop telling this story because I think he heard me tell it the other day, and I’m embarrassed!!

When the song premiered on Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable late last year, I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be ok with a new direction towards dream pop. Did you have any apprehension about premiering your new sound?
Everyone around me did I think. But I’ve always thought that if you behave authentically, like if you make a song that you would want to listen to, people will come with you. I wouldn’t have wanted to listen to it in any other incarnation. Because I’m not trained in music I need a very simple basic set of principles to work with, otherwise I might get lost.

Back in the day when I was introduced to your music (via ‘We Almost Had a Baby’ being played on Radcliffe/Maconie when they were still on Radio 2), I imagined you must do most of your songwriting alone and with a guitar. Has your songwriting changed (or needed to change) with the new direction, additional instrumentation / electronics, etc.?
Yes I used to write with an acoustic guitar, a laptop and a desk. Now I write with all sorts of instruments on different software, anywhere I want. BUT I still like going back to that first process, it’s my indulgent zone.

My favourite song on the EP turns out to be the one most like your past albums (or so I feel anyway), ‘Somerset (I Can’t Get Over)’. The vocals on it are incredible, they make me weepy. You name drop F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams, do they / have they influenced your writing?
In that song I’m more talking about someone else’s taste in books, but I do love books by both those authors, On Booze and The Glass Menagerie in particular.

Your EP is titled with a mysterious single letter. What/who does ‘S’ stand for? (Feel free to elaborate if desired / you feel comfortable to. I thought it might be about someone…)
Ahhh, nothing clever. It stands for ‘Swimming Pool’, ‘Social Halo’, ‘Somerset’ and ‘Solar Panels’.

You said in an interview in session this last week with Marc Riley on BBC 6music that some of the songs were inspired by traveling you did in Japan (and Asia?), Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Can you tell us more about this? Pretty sure you’re the only singer/songwriter to have written a tune about the energy made from solar panels in the desert.
Yes, I started writing when I was on tour in Japan during a Japanese heatwave. It must have set the tone, as would have the return through polluted, sci-fi Hong Kong in the summer. Then I went to Utah in deep winter, then I moved to LA. So I’ve seen some landscapes. The thing that sticks with you is horizons. I wanted to make my album wide because of this, if that makes any sense.

Many thanks to Emma for answering my questions and thank you also to Brid for sorting this out for us here at TGTF!

 
 
 

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