Emmy The Great – Virtue (Close Harbour)
By Cheri Amour
Frank Turner was recently quoted as saying that “Rock’n’roll was a dumbed-down art form”, suggesting that the genre is pretty much all about getting drunk, kissing pretty girls and staying up late. Which is okay by Frank. He doesn’t want to be “classical music or metaphysical poetry”, just this rough and ready idea of rock’n’roll. Luckily for the rest of us, there remain those steadfast few who, rather than spending their time nestled among a throng of gaggling girls sipping on tinnies, are penning great music, metaphysical poetry if you will.
Emmy The Great is one such poet. The London-based singer’s new album Virtue works not only as a beautifully crafted set of songs but also as tales of extinction, old age romanticisms and creation itself. No mean feat. Virtue is every bit as lovely as the singer’s debut First Love, but with a greater sophistication in its arrangements. Her songs have also clearly been informed by the recent disintegration of her engagement
‘A Woman A Woman, A Century Of Sleep’ shows off the record’s grand ambition wholeheartedly: the ordinarily slight frame to Emmy’s songs is fleshed out with bittersweet melodies and contemplative perceptions on relationships. “You might think I was a house but I’m a woman”. And women, in fact, are a resounding theme within this record; there’s a whole host of songs going out to them in ‘Sylvia’, ‘Cassandra’ and ‘Juliet’s Theme’.
Another lady with a starring role is ‘Iris’, a song led by a drummer boy snare roll and beautiful harp trills founded on the ideals of fairy tale figures and real love … “You don’t exactly know it’s faith but it’s something like a feeling … I’ll help you find the word for it.” Not much inspired by London’s stone grey face, it’s hardly surprising that Emmy dreams of an idyllic rural arcadia like Beatrix Potter. and this is evident in her pastoral, rambling sounds.
‘Paper Forest (In The Afterglow Rapture)’ deserves a mention not only for the singer’s poetic free verse but for her wordsmith skills: “Are you blessed, must be more or less, standing in the afterglow of Rapture, with the words that rapture left”. Final track ‘Trelick Tower’ is a modern-day Rapunzel tale, the hair being thrown down a North Kensington tower block. The track is heavy with an all-consuming sorrow – “Throw your hair down, when you let me spend my life trying to climb you” – that is as blissfully written as it is executed.
To concur with Joan Jett, I do love rock’n’roll, but if it’s all about the bevvy and the babes, I’d take the high road with Emmy The Great for a heartfelt love story any day.