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Album Review – Emmy the Great: Virtue

Lovely Emmy the Great is back with new album Virtue, and it's a multi-faceted wonder that explores the existential wanderings of her mind against a lush musical backdrop.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Emmy the Great by Soni Speight.

I’ve been a fan of Emma-Lee Moss for oh so long. And she hasn’t failed me yet.

emmy the great by gabrielle brittney
Emmy the Great by Gabrielle Brittney.

Emmy The Great by Lea Rimoux
Emmy The Great by Lea Rimoux.

Virtue opens with the scratchy sounds of an orchestra tuning up in the oddly titled Dinosaur Sex… it’s a slow and understated start to Emmy’s latest album. When her voice appears it is at its lightest delicate best, clinic gradually curling into a delicate tune about the perils of a modern day life spent in front of a computer screen. Presumably the Dinosaur Sex of the title refers to an outmoded form of human contact.

Emmy The Great - Jo Chambers
Emmy The Great by Jo Chambers.

By Woman, unhealthy a Woman, erectile A Century of Sleep Emmy has gained a stronger voice to tell us a tale of domestic slavery, to ‘sew a dress till the pieces mesh’. She has such a marvellous way with words, but what’s so gorgeous about Virtue is the way she has also embraced a fuller sound to accompany her ever clever lyrics. Current single Iris is an early high, a driving drumbeat accompanying the simple chords and twinkling synth which drift slowly into this new bigger sound. I reviewed Iris a few weeks ago.

Emmy the Great by Avril Kelly
Emmy the Great by Avril Kelly.

Paper Forest (in the Afterglow of Rapture) reveals in crystal clear high notes the aftermath of the relationship she lost to the church. Cassandra is a simple track that calls to mind the Emmy of before.

Emmy the Great by Sam Parr
Emmy the Great by Sam Parr.

Creation starts with dreary minor chords, then reverts to a more upbeat major sound, swinging between the two as ‘she wants to know if there is a narrative’ for ‘she needs a reason for believing’. The dips and turns of the music echo the natural paths of any relationship. Sylvia has a driving disco backbeat, even as it explores stormy emotions: ‘if this is life then why does it feel like I am far away… like I am dreaming.’

Emmy The Great by Giles Mead
Emmy The Great by Giles Mead.

Emmy The Great by Rukmunal Hakim
Emmy The Great by Rukmunal Hakim.

Exit Night/Juliet’s Theme heralds a familiar Emmy type melody of yore, exploring notions of fairy tales, ghosts and other worlds where different worlds exist. In North Emmy is led by the needle, presumably on the record player. Trellick Tower is a song about the days when she was alone in West London, recently un-engaged and single once again. It’s a very small song compared with the others, with just a piano for company, leaving room for Emmy’s voice to meander into the ether.

Emmy The Great by Abi Heyneke.

Virtue remains true to Emmy’s very personal existential wanderings, but with added intrigue and oomph supplied by experimental musical accompaniments that go well beyond her original folk noodlings. What’s so wonderful is that her lyrics can be perceived in so many different ways – above are my personal interpretations but for Emmy’s explanations visit this track by track rundown on the Guardian website.

Emmy the Great by Victoria Haynes.

Lovely Emmy is flying up the charts with Virture and with good reason – she just keeps getting better and better. Virtue is out now on Close Harbour Records. You’d best catch her on tour soon.



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