Emma Louise

Lilac Everything

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Fleeing to Mexico to seek respite from the doldrums of a creative slump, Aussie singer/songwriter Emma Louise discovered a whole new persona. Working with producer Tobias Jesso, Jr., Louise pitched her vocals down into a mechanically induced baritone, coating her already luminous soul-pop emissions in a wash of late-afternoon sun that suggests Dusty Springfield by way of Anohni. Playfully referring to the character as Thomas, Louise avoids the creepiness of the uncanny valley by barrelling straight through it, delivering a lush ten-song set that never deviates from the aforementioned bit of studio trickery. Any initial tinges of artifice are quickly dispensed with, as symbiosis is achieved within the first verse of sumptuous opener "Wish You Well," one of several midtempo ballads that veer into torch song territory. The Louise/Thomas hybrid, having blurred the sonic signifiers of male and female sexuality, seems especially attuned to the emotional frequencies of kissing cousins, wanderlust, and heartache. That universal sense of longing is conveyed artfully on the lonesome, nostalgia-tinged "Never Making Plans Again," and on the soulful, autobiographical "Mexico," the latter of which commences cautiously, and is imbued with the desert hues and smoky vistas of the Southwest before launching into a euphoric stadium-jam worthy of Florence + the Machine. It will be interesting to see whether or not Louise continues down this path on future releases, or returns to her natural soprano. Either way, Lilac Everything is a remarkable achievement that, despite its relatively brief 35-minute runtime, lingers long after the swirling outro of lovelorn closer "When It Comes to You." It feels both familiar and alien, and it's in between those two predilections where its resonance resides.