A wonderfully realized set of low-key indie folk seamlessly marrying the traditions of Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, and Shannon Wright, Emily Sparks provides one of 2002's greatest breakthrough debuts with What Could Not Be Buried. Although she doesn't appear to have any connections, in either genetic or musical bloodlines, to her namesakes in the Handsome Family, she has arrived at a musical vision that owes debts of inspiration to a few obvious influences but ultimately retains its integrity to emerge as something wholly unique. With an endlessly endearing whisper serving as her vehicle in communicating elegiac narratives on vulnerability and loss, she balances waltzing, moonlit ballads with ethereal pop and stormy indie rock, all with a sense of intimacy, wide-eyed naïveté, and understated cleverness. Still, any delusions that Sparks is a songwriting ingenue are clearly erased by the subtle and sophisticated arrangements that are constructed around intricately hypnotic melodic phrases. And while she does come close to coffee-shop pop a few times, with the gorgeously intertwined acoustic guitar and piano in "Downtown Café" serving as a fine example, she generally smothers her more pristine pop tendencies with electronic creaks and scratches. All in all, it's a set of tunes whose pervasive sense of longing and loneliness makes you want to wrap yourself in a blanket and put the disc on repeat.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Fink