Review Summary: "Absence of genre makes the art go farther"
I stay up late. Very late. This may be in part of mild insomnia, but it is more to my liking of being alone. The night time is when I get most of my music listening done, whether it be searching for new artists, or laying down with one of my favorite records, nothing passes the time better than music. When I come across an artist that takes me away from endlessly searching for new talent it is a special thing. Emily Wells, a 26 year old LA based musician is one of those artists. Emily is not your typical female singer songwriter-- almost a polar opposite in fact. It is difficult to pin Wells down to a particular genre, but the easiest way to describe her music would be classical mixed with hip-hop. Now this isn't some crazed woman trying to rap over Beethoven's 9th symphony, this is a experimental blend of downtempo trip hop, indie-pop, modern hip-hop and classical. Grandly named The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties
, Emily composes ten mini-symphonies that are sure to wow any listener.
Born to an esteemed French horn teacher, Emily was brought up with music. Starting with the violin at the age of 4, Emily is somewhat of a child prodigy. She grew up listening to classical with her parents, moved on to pop acts like The Beatles, got turned onto hip-hop during her high school years, and broadened her musical horizons later on. Citing her influences from hip-hop legends such as Outkast and Biggie Smalls, to Beethoven, and all the way to Aphex Twin, Wells' music is just as well rounded as her musical taste. Emily started making music early on, producing her first cassette by the age of 16, and catching the eye of Epic Records by 19. Epic was blown away by the talent of young Emily, and was set on crafting her into the next big pop act. Fortunately for us, Emily split ways with Epic and moved to LA to pursue music on her own. With no one to tell her what to do, Emily started her own record label, Edub Productions, in which she would self-record and release her debut and sophomore albums.
is a uniquely shaped masterpiece of an album. The first two things that will hit you first is the violin and Emily's voice. It is easy to compare Emily's voice to many popular female singers like CocoRosie, Regina Spektor, and Bjork, but Emily has a style all her own. Her vocal range is not awe-inspiring, but it does not have to be. Her voice can go from a low child-like sing, closely resembling CocoRosie, to a smooth hip-hop rap, and sometimes reaching high like Bjork. Emily's voice is not the main focus however. The violin is the most featured instrument on The Symphonies
, and it more than deserves to be. Emily's playing is nothing short of incredible, showcasing her countless years of playing. Even more impressive is what she does with her playing. Emily will take layers upon layers of violin loops and pile them on top of each other, somehow forming a cohesive piece that comes together perfectly. Underneath that is where the fun is. Everything from classical instruments like the uke and glockenspiel, to drum machines and synthesizers, all the way to Emily's obsession with toy instruments like toy pianos and xylophones. At the base level is your typical rhythm section, drums, and either electric or double bass to knit everything together tightly. All of these sounds are arranged masterfully by Emily, making her mini-symphonies a true work of art.
Each track on The Symphonies
is packed with raw talent and production genius. Relying heavily and loops and samples, Emily has a lot to work with. Luckily, Emily is just as good at producing as she is at playing. Working out of her garage studio, Emily's production on The Symphonies
sounds like it was done in a million dollar studio. Every instrument is where it needs to be, and even when there are 6 violin tracks going at once on top, everything is grounded and easy to hear. It is truly inspiring to think that one person could self-record and produce such an incredible record with such little equipment and funds. While such tricky production could prove to be suicide in a live setting, Emily shines more than ever on stage.
Just looking at the track names it is easy to get an idea of Emily's music. Every song title has a clever rhyme that usually ends up becoming the chorus. Standout tracks such as 'Symphony 1: In The Barrel of a Gun' and 'Symphony 4: America's Mercy War' display Emily's talents perfectly. Violin greets you in the start of almost every track, but quickly revels a hip-hop influenced beat over a jazzy drum and bass rhythm. Emily will mix up the tracks by adding in new instruments like the previously mentioned toy piano or xylophone, keeping each track new and fresh. Drum machines and synthesizers are always on hand, giving the songs a modern feel. Emily keeps her lyrics simple and to the point, using her voice almost as another instrument rather than a way to convey what is on her mind. Although that isn't to say her lyrics are dull. On songs such as 'Symphony 3: The Story', Emily raps about her life and growing up and featured partner Count Bass D provides a witty rap in the middle, spitting out "absence of genre makes the art go farther", fitting oh so perfectly with the album. While on tracks like 'Symphony 8: & The Canary's Last Take', Emily ponders what comes next by singing out, "Where could we ever go/ where the party’s all we know"/Yeah where could we ever go/Cause I got a long love of life…". It would be impossible to pick a single out of the ten songs, every song has potential to be a favorite.
While Emily Wells won't be curing my insomnia, she does cure my musical itch for brilliant new artists.