Emily Jane White

Ode to Sentience

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West coast balladeer Emily Jane White's third album, Ode to Sentience, makes its home in the place where an irresistible force meets an immovable object, and the two create a deceptive state of seeming stasis. In fact, White's songs take a microscope to the meeting point between the two, documenting the quiet but intense pressure that's being applied there. With her cool, breathy voice, White could easily just coast her way through less weighty concerns and achieve a pleasingly breezy feel, but that's not what she's after. The songs on Ode to Sentience simmer with dark feelings just barely held in check, occasionally bubbling up to the surface just long enough to make moody insinuations on the proceedings. White's measured vocal delivery betrays just the slightest tinge of melancholy, but for the most part she maintains enough distance from the subjects of her songs to get them all the way across the plate without ever descending into pathos or melodrama. That's not to say these songs lack drama, though. Co-produced by White with Ross Harris, Ode to Sentience sports elegant, graceful chamber-folk arrangements that make the most of the space between the instruments. Simple acoustic guitar and piano lines, effective in their angularity, take center stage, with subtle touches providing succinct sonic shading around the edges. Of course, it's all in the service of the songs, and of White's vocals, which waft over the top of the tracks with a minimum of fuss but an undeniable sense of purpose. It's the kind of record that could provide an excellent soundtrack for the first half of a horror movie, when intimations of unsettling phenomena are subtly suggested before all hell breaks loose.

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