I’m really happy for Emma Louise. It’s a weird sensation – feeling happy for an artist you’ve never met – but there is something so wholesome, so brilliant, so reserved, so serious about Emma Louise that I can’t help but shake the sentiment. Now that the girl who first sung her way into my consciousness a year ago has had her debut, the four track EP, ‘Full Hearts and Empty Rooms’ certified gold in Australia moving over 35,000 units (no mean feat for a girl who’s had a ‘whirlwind’ 12 months – an instance where that word might legitimately be invoked), it appears she has cemented her ability to sing her way into the nation’s consciousness, too. What makes me extra excited about Emma Louise’s extraordinary path to fame is that her persona so obviously eschews the trappings of celebrity. Instead, with songs like ‘Boy’, she maintains an unwavering dedication to delivering poignant, pretty tunes.
‘Boy’ might be even more of a triumph for Louise than ‘Jungle’. Where the latter, her first widely distributed single, was driven by some very on-theme toms, ‘Boy’ seems to float in its own ethereal pool of light, with Louise’s vocals not so much layered over a low-key guitar riff and restrained percussion to match but rather fused with them such that the entire track sounds like it was birthed fully formed. Emma Louise’s voice, while only engaging in the lofty heights of ‘Jungle’ falsetto briefly, has a lot to do with just how cohesive and atmospheric her songs end up. In the way her mellifluous, gently-applied instrument comes to inhabit every moment of ‘Boy’, it remains an arresting proposition. While the pixie-light instrumentals often do take over entirely for brief interludes, somehow it is Louise’s vocals, constantly enthralling but rarely showy, that stay with you. The rest of the instruments – synth, drums, guitar – are at once vital but also seemingly superfluous, padding for the main event.
In a manner reminiscent of the great contemporary purveyor of atmospheric music, Bon Iver, Emma Louise has a way of rendering the precise meaning of her lyrics irrelevant. With ‘Boy’ as much as with so many tracks off Vernon’s ironically-titled ‘For Emma, Forever Ago‘ EP, the real value lies in the way words are transformed into emotive, harmonic statements. It is a beautiful song. It both conforms to what we expect from a delicate singer-songwriter, sketching out visions of the ambiguous ‘boy’ and playing with heartache and transcends those expectations by furthering Louise’s legacy of crafting haunting tracks. Even as the guitar strumming and slight beat remain constant and Louise slowly opens up as the song develops, there is a certain, inscrutable menace that lurks beneath the surface. With others we might recklessly embrace the abandon offered up by such a whimsical voice, instrumentation so quietly lulling, but with Emma Louise, the ambition and the resulting track runs deeper. Call it uncomfortable beauty than. And know that Emma Louise is doing a damn fine job at it.
Emma Louise – Boy