Release Date: Jan 27, 2015
Record label: Bella Union
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Emma-Lee Moss has come a long way since her first release back in 2006. Recording under the name Emmy The Great, Moss began writing and releasing folk influenced confessionals and quickly collaborated with the stalwarts of the burgeoning mid-2000’s folk scene such as Johnny Flynn and Noah and the Whale. What followed were two albums: the stripped back First Love followed by the more ambitious Virtue, each showing Moss’ willingness to push the experimentation and production of her music further.
Back in 2007 this very website had a record label, that record label put out a single, and this writer bought that single, and that’s when Emmy the Great appeared in his life. That’s when I first heard that voice, that cut-glass voice that managed to be both dispassionate and so full of feeling at the same time. With Emma Lee Moss – for that is her name – the voice is your way in- you can hear the sadness and the silliness she’s always held in perfect balance.
Following the release of her 2011 album, Virtue, Emma-Lee Moss set on a vagabond voyage toggling between touring and personal travel from her home of London to Salt Lake City, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles, before finally landing at her new home base in New York. Out of that course came the four tracks that comprise S, where Moss distances herself from the motif of heartbreak, a subject that anchored so much of her previous work, and instead reflects more on the existential changes around her. Miles away from the acoustic "anti-folk" origins of her first album, 2009’s First Love, but a conceivable progression from Virtue, S is a study in patterns and effects.
On ‘S’, Emmy the Great’s first release since 2011’s ‘Virtue’, the Hong Kong-born Brooklyn-based artist is in a reflective mood. Recorded in varying cities around the world (Hong Kong, LA, New York and London), Emma-Lee Moss’ talent for storytelling never falters. ‘Swimming Pool’’s haunting minimalist production stirs as crashing drums and twinkling key’s juxtapose Emmy’s dreamlike, witty observations of “the sunshine, your tan line… and your blue swimming pool” which are echoed by Wild Beasts frontman Tom Flemming, whose ghostlike baritone vocals creep behind.
It is almost seven years since I first heard Emmy The Great, on a compilation from the Something In Construction label, and in a world that is sometimes full of women with guitars and not a lot else, Emmy’s newest release is as resonant and memorable as I thought ‘Gabriel’ was in 2008. Each of its four tracks shows a separate facet of Emmy’s music, alternately ethereal, delicate, assertive and mysterious, but sharing a common thread of Emmy’s uncluttered guitar and poised, verging on fragile vocal. “Swimming Pool” is a song that properly fulfills the description of dreampop, an evocative tune around which Emmy weaves a layered production of phased electronics that is as compelling as it is poised, and as heartfelt a performance as I’ve heard from any singer songwriter recently.
Emmy the Great's first two full-length albums were breakup records, but it seems there's been less heartbreak in her life in recent years, which has left the Hong Kong-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter looking for new inspiration. Rather than continuing with the introspective soul-searching that previously fuelled her soft indie folk songs, she's now writing about the outside world after a heavy dose of travelling. She's also set aside most of the acoustic folk references and embraced technology.