EMA Past Life Martyred Saints(Souterrain Transmissions) Buy it from Insound
EMA confidently lets her emotions fly, never wavering and never second guessing herself. She’s confused, bitter and sometimes a little angry, but is still completely self assured. Past Life Martyred Saints is a vehicle for her to explore those emotions and to give all of us a completely honest view into her psyche.
Her songwriting is wandering, stream of consciousness emotion. She holds nothing back and its immaturity is its greatest strength. It's far better to be immature and admit it boldly than cover it up with pretension, something EMA is clearly aware of. She never once tries to be something she isn’t. Her lyrics aren’t incredibly insightful or groundbreaking, and without the overwhelming confidence with which she delivers them they wouldn’t mean much, save for a few shining moments. Marked features the chilling line: “I wish every time he kissed me left a mark”. Butterfly Knife has a similar moment, on which she eerily sings about “twenty kisses from a butterfly knife.”
The music has flashes of brilliance, but is rarely excellent. The vocals are often catchy, but everything else has a tendency to feel flimsy and unfinished. She hits the occasional highpoint, especially on opener Grey Ships and closer Red Star, both of which build to excellent climaxes. Beyond those, rarely a track goes by without some moments of boredom. She’s clearly a talented guitarist, but the songs are too frequently missing a piece. The hollow musical arrangements are the records biggest detractor.
Despite the often dull music, the album is an overall cohesive success. It all ties together well, and it owes its quality to the unwavering confidence of her delivery, both musically and lyrically. She goes all in all the time and every song benefits from it. Moments that would’ve been dull become exciting, simply because she’s there. That speaks volumes about her as an artist and makes Past Life Martyred Saints better than it should be.12 May, 2011 - 21:36 — Andrew Baer