Emma Worley
Sentimentalist


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
June 14th, 2022 | 30 replies


Release Date: 06/09/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Time has a way of always winning the game

This reviewer’s life hasn’t been going so well lately. It may not be obvious to the denizens of Sputnik, as I’ve basically been as active on this site as ever, but that’s just because reviewing albums and more generally participating in the community here,has been an ideal distraction from everything else. Last week, my dad died, joining my mom, six months and twenty-six days apart, with both now gone just before I hit the age of thirty. Comparing terrible situations is counterproductive and also fundamentally rather stupid, but this would prove more comprehensible if they’d both have been caught in the same awful accident, instead it was simply both getting diagnoses of late-stage cancer fairly early in life. A bad dice roll, twice in a row. The blessing is, of course, that in each case we knew what was coming, giving the family a bit of time to process and the ability to have a whole bunch of quality moments with my parents in the final year. Nonetheless, though, as I sit here typing this review, in the house we’re clearing out to sell, everything is just both shocking and overwhelming.

I know, I know, this is a music site, as they say. I only go off on this somewhat self-pitying introduction because Canadian singer-songwriter Emma Worley’s debut album has found me in a vulnerable spot and went straight to the heart. Sure, there’s something banal about turning to a singer and a guitar (and in this case, a bevy of strings) when things are bleak, but it’s true. Sentimalist is melancholy but warm-hearted, heart-on-its-sleeve but composed. It’s an album which fits in well with the Boygenius-influenced current indie folk landscape, but also does its own thing enough to stand apart, with Worley’s distinct lyrical voice and occasional strivings towards a chamber pop edge. Despite a handful of weaker moments, it’s a remarkable first effort and one that, perhaps only due to circumstance, perhaps not, I know I’ll hold close for quite a while.

The record’s first three songs set an extremely high bar. Opener “3.25” has a blunt depiction of planned suicide over a lilting melody, providing the listener with early evidence of Worley’s impressive songwriting ability. This is followed by “Swisher Sweets”, a classic sun-soaked coming of age reminiscence, perhaps the best tune here. Third song “Jigsaw” introduces a hint of country flavor, while also providing perhaps the lyric that strikes hardest for me: “how’d you let a goldfish die, how’d you let a decade go by?” A wounding reference to both past and present, it’s not overly complex, but touching and delivered with complete sincerity. It’s beautiful, and a real gut punch in my current state, nostalgic about almost everything.

The rest of the album is more of a mixed bag. All songs are quite good, but several don’t touch the quality of the opening trio, with tunes like “Guard Down” and “Dead Deer” not especially standing out on their merits. There are several late highlights, though, like the slow-paced “Power Play” and the wrenching closer “Homesick”, which match the near-perfection of the record’s early run. “Homesick” in particular deserves a little bit more analysis, as it’s both sad as hell and covers quite a bit of lyrical territory in its five minute runtime. Its “you can never go home again” perspective is painful, but feels deeply true all the same, and the beauty of its presentation is comforting in a strange way.

In conclusion, I feel vaguely guilty about getting too personal for a huge chunk of this review, putting “too much blood on the page”, as Brian Fallon would say. After all, this is an under-the-radar debut album, and as such, this is one of only a handful of reviews to appear online. Shouldn’t I focus on the music itself more? The flip side, of course, is that emotional connection is the lifeblood of folk music, and at the end of the day I can only write what I feel. Regardless, Sentimentalist is an impressive first album, worth checking for anyone with a taste for folk or lighter indie music. I don’t know whether Emma Worley will remain in the underground forever or become the next Phoebe Bridgers, but I do know that this album has been on steady repeat during one of the toughest times in my life. And that’s a beautiful thing.



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user ratings (9)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 14th 2022


3926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Don't know if this is actually a good review, but felt a need to write this, so here we go...

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 14th 2022


3926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Also, shoutout to Colton who introduced me to this album, wouldn't have heard it otherwise

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 14th 2022


48653 Comments


yikes dude, so sorry to read that first para. hope your casa is full of love rn :[

album is alright - probably a little too good to be the next phoebe bridgers, not quite good enough to get a replay or a rating for now

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 14th 2022


3926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cheers Johnny! Yeah, all things considered we're doing ok and the broader famliy's been a lot of help. Obviously still a lot to handle though.



"probably a little too good to the be next phoebe bridgers"-haha, nice!

Sowing
Moderator
June 14th 2022


41314 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sorry to hear about your losses Sunny, I had no idea. Hope you're pulling through okay and that you're getting all the support you need from those close to you.



Regarding the album, I'm thrilled to see a review for it (which I did not expect). It's a very pleasant folk album that might still grow on me some, and at the very least "Swisher Sweets" is a pure eargasm.

Digging: Shinedown - Planet Zero

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 14th 2022


3926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Sowing, appreciate the kind words. Been mostly keeping this close to the chest, but writing this review this way just felt right.



Yeah, Swisher Sweets is very immediate and might also be the best song here, but I find a full half of the tracklist to be top-notch (with the other half solid but nothing particularly special).

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
June 14th 2022


16581 Comments


Sorry to hear about your family, man. I’m glad this album has emerged as a source of comfort for you in a difficult time, and I’m excited to check it out for myself

Digging: Roseville - something about a fig tree

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 14th 2022


3926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks YoYo! Hope you enjoy

Colton
June 14th 2022


15656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

very nice review and I’m glad a staff member reviewed it. while this album definitely doesn’t reinvent the wheel, I honestly think it’s arranged and composed better than the majority of folk albums I hear, and a lot of personality comes through in the lyrics too. the two you critiqued though (Guard Down and Dead Deer) are actually my two favourites, love the ambient touches and the way the synths and strings are used

Colton
June 14th 2022


15656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

“ probably a little too good to be the next phoebe bridgers”



idk if this is better than Punisher but it’s definitely better than Stranger In The Alps (and the new Big Thief lol)

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 14th 2022


3926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cheers Colton! Interesting that your two favorite songs are some of my least favorite, but I think I can get the appeal, they're just not quite my preference.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2022


15350 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"It may not be obvious to the denizens of Sputnik, as I’ve basically been as active on this site as ever, but that’s just because reviewing albums and more generally participating in the community here,has been an ideal distraction from everything else"



I can 100% relate to this... in fact, it's the reason that I reviewed so much last month. Hope you and your family get better man, let me know if you need anything

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2022


15350 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Also, nice review!

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 15th 2022


3926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Koris! Hope you're doing alright as well

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
June 15th 2022


4514 Comments


really hope you'll be able to find some peace/happiness again soon sunny, stay strong < 3

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 15th 2022


3926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thank you Jesper!

Sowing
Moderator
June 15th 2022


41314 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Just returning to say how seriously good Swisher Sweets is...such a lush indie-folk gem. It'll definitely be on whatever final iteration of my 2022 playlist.

parksungjoon
June 15th 2022


44637 Comments


R.I.P. :[

Colton
June 15th 2022


15656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was saying to Johnny earlier, that one chord change on Swisher Sweets reminds me of Savior Complex

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
June 16th 2022


5884 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sorry for your loss sunny.

Digging: The Waterboys - This Is the Sea



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