It’s a well known myth: you can spend a lifetime recording your first album but you can’t take more than a year to record a follow up. This probably is one of the causes of the dreaded Sophomore Slump that many fear as much as I fear the Boogieman.
Thankfully, no slumps found here, in this second EP by See Emily Play. What you will find however is a dark contrast to 2011’s Four feet from the door. Yup, this is a dark one but at the same time, it’s quite grandiose. Possibly stemming from her experience playing with a full orchestra during Tramlines 2012, See Emily Play finds the band lugging around enough classic instruments to put this release in the rather swanky category of chamber pop, with a few hints of swaggery jazz and perhaps a dash of Big Band.
That’s fine and dandy on the category part of this review, so let’s go over to the songs.
‘Fair game’ has that strange, unnamed feeling that guarantees it will stay with you. Lyrically, you can pick apart several feelings, but it seems to be about the seed of doubt and how it plays poker in your head. We all been there. The song is explosive, goes into great heights and plunders into a fiery death. Quite sold so far.
‘Let’s go get away’ is the funky one, quite boisterous and swaggering. If ‘Fair game’ was an emotional kick to the self-esteem’s gracious audicious, then ‘Let’s go get away’ is the thundering sensation of avoiding said kick. Love the trumpet and fuzzy guitar.
Fun and games, uncertainty and raw emotion. You know this could lead to a victory or a disaster. ‘Memo’ is that track that made me go for the “dark” adjective. The swell orchestra trimmings added to this pièce de résistance makes it not only the sure fire gem of this EP, but also a bonafide winner. The sprawling, breezy piano is pushed by the gusts of wind of Emily Ireland‘s lovely voice. Did I mention that the orchestral arrangement is rather lovely? Chamber Pop, made in Sheffield. Gorgeous.
‘The Best Day’ is the calm after the storm. No typo, really, there is one before and one after, the difference is that before a storm, it’s all fine and dandy (or is it?) and after the weather has kicked you around like a haki sack, there is calm again. Sure, the status quo has changed, your chimney is now embedded in Uncle Alfred’s spine and your dog is now a couple of postcodes away, but you remain there, undefeated, slightly confused and completely scared, but there is hope, because you’re alive and there’s another day to grace this Earth. So, basically, this song is the happy hymn you whistle to yourself after going through an ordeal*.
Sophomore slumps can be caused by several factors : laziness, fear, insecurity, outside meddling, pressure, Richard Dawkins‘ reptilian eyes, you name it. When an artist deftly avoids it (and it happens often too!), it’s always a very nice surprise. In the case of See Emily Play‘s self-titled, it’s seems to be more of a harbinger of greater things to come. So let’s wait and see.
Words: S.J. Valdés López
*The management would like to apologise for the stream of consciousness analysis of the last song.