Emily Scott Robinson
American Siren


5.0
classic

Review

by Atari STAFF
November 2nd, 2021 | 40 replies


Release Date: 10/29/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: What if desire is a gift and not a sin?

American Siren will emotionally devastate you. Emily Scott Robinson’s stunning follow-up to Traveling Mercies is a country gospel album without the gospel message – whatever the hell that would even be in this crazy world today. It was recorded in a church – an authentic nod to her upbringing – but I’d wager this album is to Emily Scott Robinson what Midnight Mass is to Mike Flanagan: a cautionary tale. Or really, in Robinson’s case, several of them. The tracks here play out like the songwriter’s personal book of important, often painful life lessons. The album’s most poignant ballad, “Let ‘Em Burn”, finds the songwriter at an irresistible career high - claiming her own identity (sneakily, through the perspective of a weathered housewife) as she defiantly sings of leaving “what she thought she’d be” in a pile of burning ashes. Anyone who’s paid a sliver of attention during my stint here knows how important lyrics are to me. In this regard alone, American Siren is a storyteller album with the soul and conviction to move a damn mountain – or at the very least, to force old nerds to write gushing reviews during those late-night windows of opportunity when their kid is asleep. Nobody's too busy for an album this good.

Robinson wastes no time on American Siren showing off her soaring vocals. The reflective “Old Gods” is very restrained instrumentally, allowing her airy and magnetic delivery to slowly fill the room with little distraction. On the other hand, the incredibly upbeat “Cheap Seats” has the kind of feel-good and whacky energy you’d typically expect from the likes of Miranda Lambert. It’s the perfect song for a car ride - the windows down as the seasonal air enhances the incredibly bouncy chorus. Whichever direction she takes, she does it with a level of confidence that’s never short of engaging. She also uses biting humor to make her point on several occasions. On the more playful “Things You Learn the Hard Way” she lightens the mood a bit when sarcastically belting a reminder: when Grandpa comes to dinner Lord, don’t mention politics! Her relatable and clever anecdotes help balance out the more harrowing topics of alcoholism, divorce, and isolation. Put bluntly though, nothing will prepare you for the impact of “Hometown Hero.” Over a hushed acoustic guitar and banjo arrangement, Robinson is completely vulnerable as she dives into a very real character study of depression, and the worst possible outcome that comes from it. It’s incredibly detailed to the point of being a bit nerve-wracking, but the message it conveys is too authentic to ignore. Those with a beating heart would be wise to have some tissues around for lines like we buried you on a clear blue All Saints Day and in a flash we lost you to the war inside your head.

It’s clear with American Siren that Robinson isn’t concerned with getting her hands dirty as she confronts life’s most unforgiving demons without ever slowing down. Her outstanding lyricism breathes incredible life into each thoughtful number. On the more traditional Bluegrass toe-tapper ‘Old North State” she concludes the album with an irresistible love letter to nature. In lost “Lost Woman’s Prayer she croons about the importance of sisterhood. Aside from several tracks that hit you like a truck from the get-go, there are also some of those initially overlooked dark horses that take more time to appreciate. The understated “Lightning in a Bottle” reflects on the best moments of our life – picking tomato from the vine, the first cold sip of beer, summer romance – all those fleeting highlights we often take for granted and find ourselves romanticizing about down the road. As she puts it so well with that ridiculously pure voice of hers, missing life when it was easier, and love when it was magic.

As much as I adored 2019’s Traveling Mercies, this is the moment where Emily Scott Robinson really comes alive. American Siren is the kind of album that connects with you on a personal level, leaving all kinds of potent thoughts dancing around in your head. Few songs in recent memory have stunned me with a rushing flood of emotions like the heavy cuts here did with ease. It’s a beautiful, often brutally honest album that finds the songwriter down on her knees during life’s most chaotic moments – always thankful for the hard but necessary lessons. Even with enough vocal harmonies and religious imagery to fill the biggest mother church, Robinson makes it apparent much of her wisdom has come from within. American Siren is a powerful statement of independence as well as a vivid photo reel of the people and places that have shaped the musician. During divided times, it’s just the kind of inspirational album we could all use more of; a confident and colorful portrayal of forging your own path through a complicated world. There’s much emphasis here about being proud of who you are – easier said than done – but most importantly, being proud of your scars. Man, what I wouldn’t give to share a drink and a few stories with Emily right about now; “American Siren” is musical therapy at its very best.



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user ratings (38)
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Jesper L. CONTRIBUTOR (4.5)
on the edge of something free...

related reviews

Traveling Mercies


Comments:Add a Comment 
Purpl3Spartan
November 2nd 2021


1976 Comments


Nice review!

Might check this

Digging: Satyr - Locus

Atari
Staff Reviewer
November 2nd 2021


27015 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

loved her last album but this one just FLOORED me



https://emilyscottrobinson.bandcamp.com/album/american-siren





Digging: Gas - Der Lange Marsch

butt.
November 2nd 2021


9154 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice write up. Really wanted to love this but it felt pretty by-the-numbers to me.

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
November 2nd 2021


3081 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Gave this a first spin on Friday, but if I hadn't I'd be checking immediately based on an Atari 5.0 and Jesper 4.5!



First returns were mostly great, will definitely be spending some time with this one

Slex
November 2nd 2021


12641 Comments


Figured you would slap a 5 on this haha

Digging: The World Is a Beautiful Place... - Harmlessness

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
November 2nd 2021


15821 Comments


Seeing these scores anyone would think 2021 is a hype year.

Digging: Obscura - A Valediction

Gyromania
November 2nd 2021


33321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Beautiful stuff

Sowing
Moderator
November 2nd 2021


39749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

YES AN ATARI 5

The lyrics on this are good and her voice is incredible, but the songwriting didn't grab me outright. Might continue to grow but either way this album is very solid and one of the better country records I've heard in 2021.

Also, I love the quote you pulled for the summary.

Digging: Ethereal Shroud - Trisagion

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
November 2nd 2021


3583 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yess beaut review, v much agreed!

sowing: i can totally see you 5'ing this approximately 16,5 working days from now

Sowing
Moderator
November 2nd 2021


39749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That sounds exactly right Jesper. You know me too well!

Honestly I haven't yet given this the time it deserves, been too obsessed with Hushed & Grim as well as the new Marissa Nadler. But this will certainly work its way into a heavier rotation soon.

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
November 2nd 2021


3583 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

oh shi there's a new marissa nadler as well? what a god tier year for sadwomencore, gotta get on that asap

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
November 2nd 2021


3826 Comments


Whoa. Have to check this ASAP. Fantastic review.

DadKungFu
November 2nd 2021


1308 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Feel like I'm going to love this

Pikazilla
November 2nd 2021


19926 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

whoa this doesn't sound as bad as expected

DadKungFu
November 2nd 2021


1308 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

2 minutes in and this is already the shit. Country AOTY, I'm calling it now

Slex
November 2nd 2021


12641 Comments


Loving the fact that all the cosmic country stuff eased me into being able to love something super traditional like this

Atari
Staff Reviewer
November 2nd 2021


27015 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

cheers everyone!



glad this seems to be resonating with so many of us. these are the moments I live for on this site :]

dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
November 2nd 2021


1608 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yes yes yes great review. You hit on a lot of my favorite lyrical moments. “Hometown Hero” flipping the expected patriotism of the genre on its head makes for a stunning song. The production on this is also pristine and what I think really pushes it past her previous for me (which I also loved)

The one thing that has me questioning my five is that I’m getting kind of tired of “checklist” songs on country albums, but Things You Learn the Hard Way is just charming enough to make it work

Slex
November 2nd 2021


12641 Comments


Hard Way is my favorite track lol, what's a "checklist" song, askin genuinely!

dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
November 2nd 2021


1608 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

They’re called laundry list songs too. They’re big in mainstream country - Basically they just list things off that establish “country cred” with little plot or storyline. There’s actually a history of them being auto-biographical (which is why I think “Hard Way” worked, plus it being musically gorgeous), but they’ve kind of become a way for folks who never lived in the “country” to live it vicariously by listening to mainstream artists who are just checking off boxes. Chicken Fried by the Zac Brown Band is a pretty well known modern example (even though I genuinely like that song lol and think it’s more genuine than most). I don’t think Emily Scott Robinson’s is technically one because it’s very much her story, but it definitely borders on the formula



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