Emma Cook

Hit & Run

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Emma Cook appears on the cover of her second album Hit & Run standing in the foreground before a child's scooter that lies on the ground in an alley, as if the viewer had knocked her down while riding and, not having run away, is now being confronted by the indignant victim. Cook, hand on hip, in an off-the-shoulder dress that reveals a winged tattoo above her breastbone, gives the viewer a sidelong glance full of attitude. It's a good introduction to a set of chip-on-the-shoulder songs about the hills and valleys of romance that she sings in an edgy voice over her percussive acoustic guitar playing, augmented with a small rhythm section and other instruments added here and there for color. She uses her strong, breathy alto for dramatic effect, alternately stretching out or rushing her words and varying the volume as she recounts a series of observations about love. Maybe all of these first-person narrations addressed to "you" are fictional story songs involving different characters each time. (At very least, the narrator and subject of the uncharacteristically light-hearted "Coffee Shop Girl," in which the singer laments the absence of the waitress who used to serve coffee and say, "Have a nice day," seem to be different from the characters in the other songs, and the narrator may even be a man.) Maybe they're the same two people time after time; if so, this is one tumultuous relationship. Or perhaps it's the same woman singing and at least a couple of different guys being sung to. Sometimes, the singer is kissing the guy off; sometimes she is lusting after him and professing undying love; sometimes she's so conflicted it's hard to tell whether she's doing anything other than venting. In at least a couple of instances, she is concerned primarily about his mother ("This Boy," "She Carried You") and how she figures in the relationship. Sometimes, even lust is complicated, as in "Even Your Momma Can Wear Stiletto Boots," in which the singer objects to her boyfriend's going to prostitutes for kinky sex and declares that he can get it at home if he wants, that she will be both Madonna (as in the religious icon, that is) and whore for him. (Here and elsewhere, Cook casually indulges in explicit language.) But whether things seem to be going badly or well, or whether a mother-in-law is interfering, Cook has strong feelings to express about her love life, or about the love life of a woman (or women) she's inhabiting in these songs, and she doesn't hold back from doing so. [The American edition of the album contains three bonus tracks culled from Cook's debut album Manifesto, in which she sounds a bit more ingenuous, but no less passionate.]

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