Release Date: Mar 11, 2016
Record label: Bella Union
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
To label Emmy the Great as an anti-folk staple is much like calling a ball round. That much is obvious, but in the sheer vastness of Moss’ encompassing career and sound, it would be a disservice to call her just that. In the case of Emma-Lee Moss’ first full studio release in five years, Second Love, the beloved itinerant wanderer finds herself expanding further into postmodern musicality with, thematically speaking, analyses of technology and its effect on the world in terms of love and heartbreak.
Former anti-folker Emma-Lee Moss dropped a stunner at the end of 2014 with Swimming Pool, a spare synth-hymn to lust and wanderlust. She described that song as “a raised bar that I spent three years chasing”; Second Love is a benchmark smashed and an affecting portrait of a millennial lost soul. Songs such as Algorithm (“I hope it leads me to you”) and Hyperlink (“Walk me through the screens/ Tell me all your broken dreams”), with its sparse, hazy guitar, evoke the loneliness of digital life in the city beautifully.
As well as being a record about new love and unfamiliar places, Emmy the Great's third album Second Love mixes electronica with a knack for cutting, heartbreaking lyrics and acoustic orchestration. I'd suspected there was a new producer on board when I first heard the undulating, billowing 'Swimming Pool'. But having listened to the record in full, it's clear that this comes down to a theme – love and life in the digital age and how confusing that can be.
It’s been almost five years since we last heard from Emma-Lee Moss, aka Emmy The Great, back when she released her second album, Virtue. As that album detailed (in sometimes painfully personal terms) the break-up of the relationship with her fiance after he found religion and decided to dedicate his life to the church, it’s understandable that she may have wanted to take some time off. During those five years, she’s lived in various cities, including Los Angeles, New York and her native Hong Kong, and that restlessness is nicely evoked on her new record.
The five years since second album Virtues have seen Emma-Lee Moss dipping her toe into soundtrack work with Austenland and carving out a side-career in cultural reportage. Second Love sees her make an emphatic return to the day job. It’s the kind of record that reveals depths over many listens; a meticulously crafted and presented, subtle and mature piece of work.
Emmy the Great is interested in the space between people, and she sets her songs in a moment of action: leaning in, dancing apart, or walking away. She lays out her scenes with carefully chosen details, and on her indie pop debut, First Love, those details came in paragraphs. This was mostly a good thing; the woman born Emma-Lee Moss has a gift for maximalism, and her best early songs manage to immerse the listener in a rich and layered world.
Having released the breakup-fueled Virtue (and a Christmas album and an EP) in the period since her 2009 debut, First Love, Emmy the Great returns with a nod to the latter album's heart health in Second Love. Partly inspired by newfound romance and change -- Emmy's Emma-Lee Moss moved frequently, eventually settling in New York City during the record's writing and recording stage -- it was produced by Ludwig Göransson (Childish Gambino, HAIM) and Dave McCracken (Natalie Imbruglia, Beyoncé), and features a number of guest musicians, including Tom Fleming of Wild Beasts and Fyfe Dangerfield of Guillemots. The collaborative result retains the singer/songwriter's amiable style while reaching into more expansive, especially mechanical sounds, often reflecting lyrics that address contemporary tech and culture in addition to matters of the heart.
It's hard not to be moved by Emma-Lee Moss's third album. Songs like "Algorithm" or "Shadowlawns" are pristinely pressed matters of the heart, each enveloped in sensitive melody that's steered by Moss's ornate vocal. A beautiful and immersive listening experience, Second Love's emotionally warm sounds are a pleasure to sink into. (www.emmythegreat.com) .
Following last year’s E.P. S, Emmy The Great embarks on a wider and more introspective exploration of her technological anxiety. In the five years since her last full album, Emma-Lee Moss has filled her time globe-trotting and contributing to the world of cultural journalism, and it’s a lifestyle that weighs heavily on Second Love. Remaining as lyrically dense as she's been in any previous work, songs such as “Algorithm” and “Hyperlink” take detached standpoints on the death of human interaction as it paves way to the lonely world of phones, apps and headphones.
“Love is the answer in the end,” she sings on ‘Hyperlink’, humanising the computer-softened sounds favoured by FKA Twigs and Alt-J. Her romantic nuances create life and humanity. ‘Swimming Pool’, featuring Wild Beasts’ Tom Fleming, feeds a phantom flamenco guitar through a synthetic filter while Emmy whispers, “Now I’ve seen you here I don’t know how I even used to be alive.” ‘Algorithm’ describes love as “pumping through my heart like an algorithm”, while ‘Phoenixes’ reminisces about fashion-obsessed teenage years.Both muted and epic, ‘Second Love’ foresees a future where torch singers are forlorn replicants and a post-human’s ElectroFolk.2 port is hard-wired to its heart.
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