3 September 2016

Emily Jane White - They Moved in Shadow All Together


Emily Jane White is a singer/songwriter who is originally from Oakland, California, she has been active since 2006 as a solo artist, studied around the world, played in punk bands and she seems to have had her biggest successes in France according to Wikipedia.  Whilst I do not want to make the opening paragraph of this review to be very short, I do not know too much about the lady; there is a full bio on her website (link is below) which will tell you all you need to know about this lady, but I will reveal that the title of this album is taken from the Cormac McCarthy’s novel 'Outer Dark' and it was recorded between December 2013 and September 2015 in Oakland.  I was recommended this one by a friend and on a beer promise I said I would review it, so I will make good on that promise now....

"Frozen Garden" starts this album with an acoustic sound mixed with reverb that has become a stable of the neo-folk scene in many years, a very familiar sound which loops the vocals, basic percussion and it merges together to give a powerful and memorable introduction to this album.  I like this song, it is strong number that speaks of forgiveness in the future, whilst showing that at the moment all is not a garden of roses.  "Hands" is next and brings the piano into the mix and this song takes everything up a notch with another blissful piece of folk pop that can cause the soul to rise and the tears to flow, it is a beautiful song that has made me catch my breath at times.  It might be because I relate to some of the lyrics and the dramatic tone of the music, but this is one of my favourite songs of the album and of this year as well.  An extremely well-crafted and emotive number, one that gets better with each listen.  "Nightmares on Repeat" follows and if this is the sound of nightmares, I would not complain.  It is another strong number with a beautiful sound that comes from the pedal steel guitar, soft percussion which rises when required and acoustic strumming.  The album is settling into a familiar pattern and this song is a quite similar to the last two and whilst they are well crafted, it is still a little too identical to the others.  Is this a pattern for the whole album?  "Rupturing" changes the feel as it is focuses more on the piano and has a slightly different timing to the music as the brushes on the drums are not too easy to follow, giving it a strange feeling and it does not settle easily for the listener.  The husky and low vocals of Ms White are beautiful, sounding like they are on the edge of sadness all the way through.  It is a good, but slightly confusing song that at least tries to be a little different to the other songs.  The half way point of this album is marked by "Moulding" which starts with an explosion of mixed vocals, soft guitars and then it moves into heartbreak territory and once more I am finding the music to be beautiful and at least it aims for something a little different to the rest of the record.  It is a slow number, gentle as a breeze and strong as a hurricane; yet whilst it aims to be different, it is also very familiar and that seems to be taking a shine of the overall effect of the record for me.

The sixth song of the album is called "The Ledge" and decisions are being made here, with consequences being felt by all who are within hearing distance.  It is a short number, it has the familiar pattern that has become the calling card of this album, a fiddle (or maybe an e-bow), a piano that is designed to break your soul as the ramifications are felt, but then it ends with a sudden hook and a fade out.  It is a strange number, at least it ends a little differently to the others, alas with a familiar feeling to the rest of the song.  "The Black Dove" was almost written off as a similar number once again, starting with a gentle piano and duel vocal effect, but then it has a massive percussion section that kisses in which gives the song a lift that was required for this song. Granted, it is still a familiar feeling overall and it is not a bad familiar either, but if it was not for that pounding drum beat then this would have been almost uniform to the best percentage of this album.  "Antechamber" sadly does not have that same resource as "The Black Dove", this haunted song is a well-crafted and still sounds beautiful.  But there are a lot of similarities to other songs on this record, relying heavily on the duel vocal effect and echoing reverb of the music that is the main bases of the album.  The penultimate song of the album is "Womankind" and the sentiment of this song (a beautiful and well-crafted set of lyrics about the repression of females all over the world) is lost under that familiar feeling that has been the main focus and curse of the album at the same time.  It is a beautiful song and I applaud the lyrical content, but musically it is just that bit too similar to the other songs once again to stand out from the pack.  Ending the album is "Behind The Glass", which keeps up the mantra of the album with a familiar feeling to the song, but the mood is slower on this song with a song about the end of a relationship and everything heading south.  I like the song once again, but it is still eerily familiar and that is a feeling that I have not been able to shake all the way through this album, even when we reach the conclusion. 

I like this album but I can see faults with it at the same time, something which can happen on folk albums a lot.  Quite a lot of the songs sound very similar to other tunes on the album, leading to a feeling that you have heard the song somewhere before.  Which is a shame as the talent on show is strong, but variation to the tunes would have helped a little. However, ever since I started listening to this album, I keep coming back to it. I have listened to it a lot more than I usually do with reviews, so I might be eating my world by the end of 2016.  I still say "Hands" is one of the best songs of this year, but at the moment the album is not stepping out of the shadows for me.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out.

Top track - Hands


You can purchase They Moved in Shadow All Together on Amazon here.

You can visit the Emily Jane White website here.

You can follow the activities of Emily Jane White on Facebook here.

You can stream They Moved in Shadow All Together on Deezer here.

You can stream They Moved in Shadow All Together on Spotify here.

You can stream They Moved in Shadow All Together on Tidal here.

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