Emmy the Great – Virtue album review

You know when you listen to an album, and everything about it seems to line up, but it just doesn’t quite connect with you?  Emmy the Great’s sophomore album, Virtue, is one of those records.

On the surface, Virtue is really quite enjoyable; it’s an indie-folk breakup album, with Emmy-Lee Moss herself serving as the heartbroken protagonist after her fiancée recently left her for religion.  Moss’s voice is unique and relaxed, with a husky lower range that’s a welcome departure from the higher pitches of some of her contemporaries, and she frequently experiments with strings, auxiliary percussion, synths, and slide guitars, among other lush instrumentation.

In fact, it’s really just the poor timing of this release that hurts it.  Virtue has the unfortunate task of following up on a half-year that has seen similar indie-folk stalwarts like Timber Timbre, Bon Iver, Laura Stevenson and the Cans, and Fleet Foxes all release amazing albums, and it’s neither as emotionally satisfying, extraordinarily unique, or musically adventurous as any of them.  It’s also rather predictable; from the first moments of the sweeping opener “Dinosaur Sex”, it’s easy to tell where the album’s going to go, promptly hitting all of the indie-folk bases in quick succession.  “Sylvia” sounds like a spaghetti Western theme, “Iris” has a driving country twang, and “Trellick Tower” is a sparse piano ballad.  Same old, same old.

It’s a bit of a shame that Virtue was released when it was; by all the counts, it’s really not bad, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it other than a sense of familiarity that runs throughout.  If you’ve heard the big folk releases of this year and you want more, by all means check this out, because even though it’s not great, it’s certainly nowhere near terrible; I`m just a little bit burnt out on the indie-folk thing at this point.

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