I first fell in love with Emma-Lee Moss’ music after hearing her track ‘Atoms’ online. The subject of the song is a break up between a girl who is “wrapped up in her books” and her partner. However, despite conventional themes of loss and heartbreak, ‘Atoms’ defies categorisation as a typical love song. By surprising the listener with images of ‘planets’ and ‘ancestors in monkey costumes’, Emmy the Great announces herself as a comical lyricist in addition to her vocal talent. It’s fair to say I was intrigued. Having subsequently listened to her albums First Love (2009) and Virtue (2011), I jumped at the chance to review her performance at Leeds’ Belgrave Music Hall, following the release of her latest album Second Love (2016).
Support act O Karmina warmed up the audience with her angelic voice and humility. Despite her great talent, she expressed delight at the chance to perform her tracks in front of a crowd, instead of alone in her bedroom. Singing without the accompaniment of a band, O Karmina allowed her vocal ability to shine. In the closing song of her set, ‘The Hunt’, she layered multiple samples, beginning with a mere beat on the microphone, in order to produce a rich and complex final product.
Leaving the stage with sustained modesty, despite enthusiastic applause, O Karmina set a high standard for the evening which was undoubtedly maintained. Emmy the Great opened with a song from Virtue, ‘Dinosaur Sex’, before playing some of her new material. With songs from the newly released Second Love, Emma revealed a new cool and highly polished sound. Most notably, the songs ‘Swimming Pool’, ‘Algorithm’ and ‘Phoenixes’ exemplified a shift in style for the artist. Yet, she made sure to play some old favourites, like ‘We Almost Had a Baby’, to which the audience responded well. Emma interspersed her eclectic songs with suitably eclectic anecdotes about Hong Kong, S Club 7, and Joaquin Phoenix, making no effort to disguise her kookiness, and encouraging us to enjoy ourselves, “It’s vodka Wednesday!”
After promising that she would play one more song, Emma soon returned to the stage without her band for an encore. She played several audience requests, alone, with only the accompaniment of her guitar. Personally, I believe that this was the highlight of the night. Without any other distractions, Moss’ talent was undeniable. Although she called on the audience to help her out, warning us that she might have forgotten the songs that were requested, she played and sang beautifully. Her closing song ‘Paper Forest’ was absolutely breath-taking. Having proved that she can do it all, from stripped back acoustics to high production tracks, Emma-Lee Moss has established herself as a worthy front-runner in the music industry and I hope that she gains the recognition she deserves.
Words: Niamh Leonard-Bedwell