Saturday, April 7, 2012
EMA- Past Life Martyred Saints
Recently, EMA and Zola Jesus played the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and after discussing the show with friends I felt obligated to discuss this engaging, emotional artist.
EMA burst onto the music scene around 2006 with noise-folk band Gowns and released three albums before breaking up in 2009. At that time, EMA went solo and released her debut album Little Sketches on Tape on Night People in 2010. Last year, EMA released her sensational, stunning studio debut album Past Life Martyred Saints.
The risky raw emotions showcased on this album make it a difficult album for most mainstream audiences to accept and enjoy. To be perfectly honest, it’s an album that grows on you with each subsequent listen. EMA captivates audiences by channeling her emotions in a brazen way and is completely confident with exhibiting her sensitive side.
Past Life Martyred Saints could probably be best described as a noise folk album. Track after track, the album draws you further in with each subsequent song. Anderson’s ability to capture emotional eeriness attacks your eardrums in an irresistible way. EMA is one of the most unique singer-songwriters to emerge in recent years and Past Life Martyred Saints proves just why.
Lending their support, former Gowns band members Ezra Buchla (keyboards, viola, vocals), Aaron Davis (bass) and Corey Fogel (percussion) make appearances on the album with EMA’s younger sister Nicole “Nikki” Anderson (drums, guitar, vocals). This exceptional support group glues and solidifies EMA’s emotional sound.
EMA’s studio debut album Past Life Martyred Saints opens up with the ghostly “Grey Ship,” a soothing seven minute song that kick starts this noise-folk record. Inspired by her Nordic ancestry, “Grey Ship” describes death rituals on Viking vessels and is just one of the many unique subjects that illustrate EMA’s emotional rollercoaster debut.
My favorite track is “California” and although I disagree with the opening lyrics, “Fuck California/ You made me boring” it’s an awesome song filled with raw, remarkable lyrics like
“You never seen the ocean/ You never been on a plane/ Schizophrenia rules the brain/ Aliens coming to take you away/ You’re still my favorite/ Past life martyred saint.” EMA is not for everyone and this song proves it. Those who detest EMA will usually utilize this song as a prime example why she isn’t good, but I always remind them to appreciate the beautiful, bold lyrics. Cookie cut compositions can be enjoyable, but I rather have a memorable, magnificent artist like EMA that has me talking about all aspects of her music not just “how cool her video looks” or “how catchy her lyrics are” to mainstream audiences. She is an artist that can be appreciated on multiple levels.
Like an edgy female Conor Oberst, EMA composes crafty Lou Reed-like lyrics that have you begging for more. I commend anyone who proudly showcases their vulnerabilities and that’s why I like EMA. A true artist, regardless of their talent, will always convey their true feelings time and time again.
Next up, “Anteroom” reminds me of a similar melody to the opening of “Gigantic” by The Pixies and “Needle in the Hay” by Elliott Smith. A simple, subdue song serenades the listener with a catchy melody that even casual listeners can start humming along. “Milkman” is a fun hybrid shoe-gaze and psychedelic track. Besides being reminiscent of Sleigh Bells and Panda Bear I adore the “Milkman” music video.
“Coda” is a harmonious folk/ bluesy song that persists as a buffer about romantic obsession between “Milkman” and “Marked.” The sweet sorrow showcased on “Marked” demonstrates how much talent EMA possesses. This song is a true gift bestowed upon us music fans! The remaining tracks “Breakfast,” and the Patti Smith-like “Redstar” are also worth mentioning. However, I need to take a moment to recognize “Butterfly Knife.” This torturous and devastating song takes EMA to a whole new emotional level with cunning lyrics like “Only God can make it right/ In the desert underneath/ The light it’s/ 20 kisses with a butterfly knife.”
Past Life Martyred Saints is an intense, ingenious poignant album. Layered lamentation throughout this triumphant album makes Past Life Martyred Saints a must buy for those unafraid to embrace their vulnerability.