Emmy the Great - Second Love
With its transportive lyrics, the opening track of Emmy the Great’s third album, Second Love all but references David Hockney's famous painting ‘A Bigger Splash’’s sun drenched Californian swimming pool. But unlike Hockney’s, Emmy's (aka Emma-Lee Moss) 'Swimming Pool’ is a time and place reluctantly departed from, not escaped to. Pack up the sun lounger as we're not always this “super chill”.
Moss’s familiar acoustic guitar makes fleeting appearances. Musically, her work now features detailed electronic arrangements and production, including her own programming and engineering contributions. Lyrically, the recently well travelled artist is less concerned with separation anxiety, instead using life’s digital framework as a launchpad for her observational studies.
‘Less than Three’ takes similar form to John Grant's work but is impatient with relationship progress rather than upset at its passing. Moss continues to try and make sense of love in ‘Hyperlink’; like Suzanne Vega’s coffee shop observer in ‘Tom’s Diner’ – she’s watching you... – but glancing up from her phone instead of peeking through two eye-shaped holes in her newspaper. These tracks are stylistically indicative: music as pared back, vocals high in the mix, and lyrics as warm as acoustic tracks from Moss’s earlier work. Her changes have not compromised the emotional interface between artist and listener.
Some stories marinate in time. Moss has fun in the more traditionally arranged ‘Never Go Home’, singing “Now we’re running with the hood rolled down”, her hair flowing in the wind as she hurtles down Bruce Springsteen's ‘Thunder Road’ to a breathtaking but uncertain future. The touching lament of teenage togetherness and hope, ‘Phoenixes’ tells this story from the perspective of friends (featuring Moss's now less used honey tinged vocal lilt), with ‘Shadowlawns’ concluding an imagined narrative arc where life didn’t turn out as expected in too comfortable suburbia (“Have you ever tried to fail / You should try it sometime”). In Richard Linklater’s film ‘Boyhood’, Patricia Arquette cries “I expected there to be something more”, but perhaps this is all life has to give. There's little specific modernity but Moss isn't digitally native, being the final generation who will remember life before and after social hyper-connectivity. It's no indulgence to make the most out of this viewpoint.
Music that gradually shows itself is more rewarding, painting a more vivid picture in one’s mind. Moss's evolution in musical and lyrical style, freeing herself from more fixed acoustic and literal expressions, allows her listeners a more clear vision of themselves and their place in this life. Second Love is a second chance for us to fall in love with Emmy the Great's music.