Album Review: Emmy The Great – Virtue
Forget what you know about Emmy The Great, because this is strikingly different from their past material. If ‘First Love’ was the unforgettable first boyfriend then ‘Virtue’ is the interesting, opposites-attract fellow that inevitably comes along next. Simple is, indeed, effective, as was proven on the debut, but the tracks on this sophomore effort exemplify that walls of sounds build just as much beauty.
Album opener ‘Dinosaur Sex’ boasts some of the most intense drumming this side of Florence and the Machine and works perfectly as the opener. Each time the chorus enters, it makes itself known with increasingly bombastic crescendos. ‘Creation’ builds up slowly with it’s brooding guitar riffs whilst ‘Sylvia’ continues the record with a foray into atmospheric rock and possesses one of the best breakdowns on the album during the third verse.
The albums first single ‘Iris’ hosts a down tempo 80s rock vibe in it’s chorus but the emotion is certainly not lacking since the expert lyrics remain as Emma ponders ‘there has to be a word for this, or it would only be a feeling’, cementing her status as one of the most talented writers on the scene; a constant between both albums is the impressive songwriting skills of Moss.
Fans of Emmy The Great’s debut ‘First Love’ will be grateful that ‘Cassandra’ keeps to the simple, acoustic-led style that the first album utilized beautifully. The hook-heavy ‘A Woman, A Woman, A Century Of Sleep’ is one of the more instant tracks on the album with the angelic backing vocals and harp contrasting with the intense bass before dropping out to make way for an acoustic/vocal middle eight.
‘Paper Forest (In The Afterglow Of Rapture)’ is, personally, the highlight of Emmy The Great’s career so far. A heart stopping chorus, complete with Emma’s tender but powerful calling out of ‘but you’re blessed’, guides you gently to a bewitching middle eight. One of the most evocative set of lyrics I’ve ever encountered are elevated to a spectacular high by Moss’ vocals which, at times, have a resemblance to Sharleen Spiterri.
Some tracks may take a little time to work their magic and some might feel that the simplicity of ‘First Love’ is sorely missed. As an album, however, ‘Virtue’ is anything but bad. Different, yes, but the songs are still mesmerizing and the imagery and emotion conjured by the lyrics are second to none.
So, quite a change for the act but Emmy The Great evidently have the talent and skill to execute it. It may be an initial shock if you’re expecting ‘First Love’ part two but it feels like ‘Virtue’ is a natural progression in sound – after all the honesty of an acoustic guitar can’t necessarily convey everything one would want to say. Now I’m going to go and listen to ‘Paper Forest’ on repeat.
Words: Simon McMurdo