A record filled with substance despite its prettiness...
Greg Rose

10:05 7th January 2009

The title of this album could not be more fitting. Emmy The Great's first record strives to capture that magical, muddled debut attempt at meaningful connection. It is a startlingly intimate, patchy record that is not destined or designed to be adored forever. Yet, while it lasts, it is easy to kid yourself that it is surprisingly wonderful, for all of its blemishes and imperfections.

It is unashamedly stark in its subject matter, with Emmy's young heart laid on the line from its opening and tied there until its end. Simple arrangements tangle around her lines of loss, affection, despondency and humour. There is little inflection from the theme, but the likes of We Almost Had A Baby and Dylan are delivered with sincerity and manage to cajole fondness for their singer.

References are sewn throughout, from the aforementioned Zimmerman nod to the title track, which picks at Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah with at least more invention than a certain X Factor winner. The highlight of these artist allusions, though, is MIA, a delicate acoustic strum playing with the tapestry of an innocuous conversation concerning the singer.

Emmy's voice is unspectacular, but this fits the sparse sound by never overpowering it, such as on Everything Reminds Me Of You. It allows the lines to shine more, which betrays her immaturity as a writer, but also showcases the standout lines. Also, for those who enjoy the soap-style relations between the whole new-folk scene, there is plenty of scope for speculation about the subjects of lyrics.

One song that should have been cut is 24, a hackneyed hash that loosely hangs upon the foundations of the hit US television show and is neither clever nor interesting. But the misses are rare, Emmy's dreamy style just about carrying off numerous corny moments, such as grating references to 13th century Italian literature and the shipping news.

Regardless, On The Museum Island makes up for these. As she focuses on friendship, clarity flows out of lines of a Berlin escape filled with renewal and remembrance. If it wasn't so dainty it would be harrowing, such is the unrelenting emotional nature of the content.

The album triumphs through its honesty more than anything, its personal nature – self released, funded and produced - validating this. There isn't a throwaway happy folk jig in sight, even the throwaways deal with heartache. But this is fitting, creating a record filled with substance despite its prettiness, which makes it hard to forget, like your very own first one that got away.

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