OK. I open a CD with a PC-Printed cover of a pink-haired beauty with green pixie wings. I held my breath hitting play. With a name like Emilie Autumn this had high possibilities of being another poser-ific compilation full of poor Tori Amos mimicking. Not so. This is some interesting stuff that is spearheaded by a very talented woman. The album is full of 'Once-Upon-A-Time' imagery that points to a larger musical vision, and not someone who is getting an early seat for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
Chambermaid is a toe-tapping ditty filled with themes of Lords, Ladies, fortune-telling, concubines; all melting to the basic message of a love gone bad mantra. The arrangement is hard to pinpoint. Mixing an adult-contemporary combo accompanying delicate violin melodies and mythical imagery. It flirts with descending into Ren-Fest meets Copa Cabana, but does not dwell longer than the lyrics tell their tale. Ok. I was at least a little right jumping to stereotypical conclusions upon hearing What If. Arpeggiated piano, violin accompaniment and delicate breathy vocals rich with melancholy reminiscent imagery. Tori couldn't do it better, and Emilie doesn't do it worse. A beautiful tune whose only fault is that it is so like the trademark style of a larger artist in every way as to be indiscernible.
How Strange shows Emilie stretching her legs. Utilizing complicated hip-hop (yes, hip-hop) rhythms, this could easily be L'il Kim or even S.W.V. The vocals are deftly layered to give tight harmony and counterpoint. Could this song have been done differently though I wonder? Heard it All is easily the strongest song on the short CD. Building from a small musical theme she stokes intensity and mixes styles, taking the listener from a mellow introspective Kate Bush throw-away to a harder Curve sound. It has punch, and a progression that is emotionally engaging. Remember again baffles me. A gentle piece more from the vein of Johnny Hates Jazz than one would expect from a sprite-garbed woman with a junior-high goth-chatroom handle for a name.
I'm not going to call Emilie Autumn an enigma. Rather, her music is strongly rooted in mainstream sounds and styles. It is good, at times challenging, and throughout smacks of talent, ability and careful creation. She has a great voice. Her vocals sometimes hang a little heavy with Fairy Tale imagery. The arrangements are strong and often complicated enough musically to cause a double-take.
Her image and underlying themes are so divergent from her overall sound as to make me scratch my head and check to see if the right CD was in the case. This doesn't come off as a melding of styles of successful cross over. A good listen. An above average demo. But I'm still curious what the finished product will be. And I don't mean the just the music, I also mean the performer.
Post: Traitor Records, 1818 W. 34th Pl., 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL, 60608, USA