Review: Emmy the Great @ Belgrave Music Hall, 16/03/2016
March 21, 2016
When I first started listening to Emmy the Great in 2008, I was fourteen years old and First Love had just been released. At that time, I had no idea just how much the music of Emma Lee Moss would affect me. Through the years, her songs have taken different meanings as my experiences and outlook have changed. Aged twenty-one, the release of Second Love feels like welcoming back an old friend.
While Second Love doesn’t contain the profound lyrics found in Virtue or First Love, Moss’ new direction with synths, sampling and percussion was immensely enjoyable. The set opened with crowd favourite ‘Dinosaur Sex’, before Moss asked the audience to move closer to the stage to “conserve warmth” with her kindly and endearing tone. This warmth permeated throughout the performance, as Moss continuously thanked the crowd, support act O Karmina and her backing band as if by assisting her on stage they had handed her the Holy Grail.
Songs from Second Love were introduced with stories that at first seemed like tangents, but for songs that are more like crafted personal stories, such explanations seemed wholly necessary. ‘Social Halo’ was performed partially in Chinese, with the Soho mentioned in the song introduced as the district in Hong Kong where Moss spent her youth. ‘Phoenixes’ came after a story of teenage magazines, and a love of the eponymous Joachim and River. At times, the band were accompanied by projections of Moss dancing on the wall behind the band, mirroring the ethereal nature of her new sound and making the gig feel like an art installation.
The encore was led by the audience, and you could see just how happy it made Moss to hear the crowd give their requests. To come from a background supporting Lightspeed Champion and others during her early career, she always seems genuinely humbled at the extensive knowledge fans have of her music. It’s unsurprising however, as to why Emmy the Great has such a universal appeal. The musical direction of the project is constantly shifting, and the lyrics reach the darker facets of our personality we seldom visit.
Whether it’s praying that a former lover won’t get over you (‘Somerset’), or finding dreams of past relationships too painful (‘War’), the songs are human and relatable. ‘The Hypnotist’s Son’ sums up perfectly how it feels to fall for someone when you have anxiety: paranoia, dodgy bowels and all. ‘Swimming Pool’, the most commercially popular track to date, strikes a nerve with anybody who has found themselves wanting somebody more than they have ever wanted someone before. Such is the power of Moss’ music: that what seems to be mundane can be transformed into the most profound feeling.