The Music Post I Didn't Get Around To Writing
As any long time reader of PoW knows, I am a big fan of Emm Gryner. Fan to the point I pre-ordered her latest (which has been lingering in the soon-to-be-gone "longings" section of the sidebar) disc "The Summer of High Hopes" which I have been listening to regularly ever since. It's terrific. Another total winner.
I am always left to wonder what drives the writing process, including the writing of music of course, and usually believe that there's something imagined out of autobiography that is the genesis of great art. Or inane blog posts for that matter but we're not talking about me here. And I believe that the naming of names matters as well. So my first surprise in this disc is that the name comes from a line in a song that doesn't share the title. Specifically: "The summer of high hopes/Brought tears of red merlot/ And the fact our love will never grow...." The song is titled "Merlot." This seems a bit of misdirection, as it were, from an artist who tends to be, let's say "elliptical" in her lyrics. The song that first drew me to her work, "Julia" on the "Science Fair" disc certainly seems to come out of her life but I really have no idea of what is actually is going on. But it's a beautiful song and has a very haunting lyric ("Julia, leave the dark alone/ Everyday is better than the last/ Julia, leave the dark alone/ Speak your mind 'cause this life's going fast").
It is dangerous to speculate but I'll take a stab at it. Emm is fairly recently married and my guess is that she and her husband might have been wanting to have a child which didn't happen. I hasten to say, that's an awful stretch but with the title and the beautiful but sad or regret-tinged songs, I feel lead to that conclusion. And a cursory Google search of her lyrics doesn't lead me to a place that has lyrics for the new disc online. Emm's site has been promising lyrics for a while and I wish I could link to them to take the burden off my typing. Let me just note a few of the song titles to support my supposition: "Girls Are Murder" (the first song), "All-time Low" (third) and "Sweet Destroyer" (11th and last). There is also a song called "Almighty Love" that can reasonably said to not fit my idea. It's so good that Bono, in November, said it was one of the songs in the last 20 years he wishes he'd written. I may not appreciate Bono's fevered politics but musically, that's high praise.
I'll present just one more lyric as justification of my idea. The very first line of "Girls Are Murder:" "It started when the daylight hit her open wound/How a season in this hell can kick you down/ Satellites start capturing your happy home/ But you feel alone enough/ to quote the killing moon tonight." That sounds awfully depressed or depressing but let me say - it's a gorgeous song. The melody, the musicianship, Emm's achingly beautiful voice. It's not alone. "Sweet Destroyer" is superb. "Almighty Love" - fantastic. As is "Blackwinged Bird" and "Black-eyed Blue Sky." I am tempted to say that the latter is my favorite of the disc. But I'm so enamored of all those I've mentioned, it's hard to single one out.
Let it not be said that my devotion is without some critical eye. "Queen of the Boys" and "See the Sea" both use the traditional "f-word" which doesn't thrill me, as its use often demonstrates a lack of originality more than emphasis. Plus to have this sweet, very feminine voice sing "Hurts like fuck I don't know why" ("See the Sea") is to me a startling incongruity. Her song. Her right to write. I'm just not a fan of the word so it jars me.
Bottom line - this is an amazing, great disc from an artist who is far under-known and under-appreciated. Even though she indulges in those traditional Canadian lefty tropes (the last line in the liner notes is "PLEASE do something everyday to help stop global warming XO Emm"), I really hope she gets the recognition she deserves.
On the other hand, those of us who pre-ordered also got a limited edition disc called "PVT" (read "Private") which is a re-make of her one major label issue 1998's "Public." Perhaps I am too accustomed to the songs as I know them but I am not much taken by this disc. I figure she needed to exorcise some demons after being dropped by a major label after one disc when she is a popular artist in Canada (and should be everywhere). So even though I don't care for it as much as her other work, I'm very glad to own it and I hope she's happier for having made it.
If you don't own any Emm and would like to start with her, begin with 2002's "Asianblue." It's very accessible, very pop-y for her. I'd hope it might get you started on owning a lot her work because she's a remarkable talent.
Damnably cute too but you should have expected that from me. Really.