Emmy the Great

* * * * *

Emmy the Great gives an engaging performance that more than lives up to her name.

Image of Emmy the Great

@ Stereo, Glasgow, on Tue 15 Mar 2016

‘Dinosaur sex led to nothing,’ sings Emma-Lee Moss, that is, Emmy the Great to us mere mortals, ‘and maybe we will lead to something.’ The song, Dinosaur Sex, from Emmy’s second album, 2011’s Virtue, posits a vision of humanity wreaking its own destruction, but what’s notable here is that last word, “something”. She used to sing “nothing”.

The singer-songwriter has just this week released her third album, Second Love, a sequel of sorts to her début LP, 2009’s First Love; where First Love is a study of a young woman discovering herself and her capacity to love, and the heart-breaking vulnerability that brings with it, Second Love re-examines love for the digital age, asking what it means to make a personal connection in a world that’s increasingly impersonal. Support is provided by O Karmina, whose impressive use of loops and pedals, and even more impressive soulful voice, produces a confident and engaging solo performance.

Emmy’s digital musings come paired with a new digital sound. The acoustic guitars are eschewed (there is one on-stage, but it survives the show untouched) in favour of delay and reverb laden electrics, keyboards, and samples, creating a sparse yet flourishing music that’s maybe best described as a sort of post-folk, if that’s a thing. If it’s not, it should be.

The main set is dominated by Second Love. From the driving bass of Algorithm to the staccato funk of Less Than Three, the swelling synth of Hyperlink and Dance w Me and the haunting, heartfelt Lost in You, we’re treated to a showcases of new songs that are among the best Emmy the Great has produced. A few older tracks, most notably First Love’s title track and We Almost Had A Baby, are given an update to fit the new style to great effect. This, along with that subtle lyrical shift in Dinosaur Sex, speaks of an artist who’s happy to re-evaluate and re-craft, creating a living body of work that’s liable to change as she does.

There’s something about Emmy the Great that brings genuine intimacy and warmth to her performances. Whether it be her frank approach to what are often deeply personal songs, her willingness to engage with her audience, or simply just her ever-mesmerizing vocals, she invites that same connection she worries we might be losing. After all, that pseudonym, whilst perhaps intended to be tongue-in-cheek, is clearly no misnomer.