Emmy the Great

First Love

(LP - Plumeria #PL 01LP)

Review by

At its worst, First Love is a British folk album for those who discovered Nick Drake as a result of the Garden State soundtrack -- a modernized, hit-or-miss interpretation of a classic genre. Emma-Lee Moss takes her cues from Drake, Joni Mitchell, and their guitar-strumming ilk, but she sounds more awkward than those artists ever did, with syllable-heavy lyrics that often clutter her own melodies. At its best, though, this debut effort breathes new life into old patterns, as many tracks prove to be solid, oddball folk songs for the iPod generation. The sparkling "We Almost Had a Baby" flirts with girl pop, even if its thinly veiled lyrics ("You didn't stop when I told you to stop, and there was a month when I wasn't sure") are more suggestive than anything the Shangri-Las touched upon. Several minutes later, "Dylan" sways like an Irish folk number, its fiddles and military percussion dancing around Moss' attack on a holier-than-thou hipster. Her lyrics may be cumbersome in execution, but they're still sharp on paper, honing their attack to a fine point whenever the singer attacks former lovers ("You were stroking me like a pet, but you didn't own me yet") and the male gender in general. Throw in some recurring motifs -- "The Easter Parade" and "The Easter Parade, Pt. 2" explore the same riff, albeit in radically different contexts -- and First Love sounds exactly like its title suggests: self-conscious and potentially awkward, but quite charming and earnest nevertheless.