This girl truly earns her moniker. As Emmy the Great
, London-based (by way of Hong Kong) gem Emma-Lee Moss concocts tunes that relish her ability as one of the sharpest writers around. Her power emerges from a rare aptitude to divulge real feelings in a coherent setting. She captivates because of her innate sense of when to drown in self-judgment and afford herself reprieve. And how can you not commend the girl for writing the single most popular song about a pregnancy scare? ("We Almost Had a Baby").
Both ambitious and subsequently accomplished, her outright feminist-tinged anti-folk is full of ease and brash wit. Consumed by twenty-something ennui and the many permutations of heartache, Emma drafts narratives to surround us in a world of saccharine melodies. On the other side of the coin, her poetically obscured lyrics smartly showcase how being a hopeless romantic will soon be the death of her. Listening to Emmy the Great, we see a gorgeous cynicism forming in words and sounds. Her first effort First Love
was released in 2009 and recently accompanied by Virtue
, released this past summer, an allusion to a fiance that left her for another lady (or religion). Despite this, self-pity is absent from Emmy's music. She reconstructs her reality into something both affecting and disconnected.
Emmy the Great is both a solo and collaborative project. Based around the words and music of singer-songwriter Emma-Lee Moss, it developed sonically with Euan Hinshelwood, guitarist in East London's Younghusband. The two are often joined by a a collective of musicians including Tom Rogerson of Three Trapped Tigers, Jenny Lau of the Mules, Ric Hollingbery of Pengilly's and Younghusband members Pete Baker and Joe Chilton.
Emma was born in Hong Kong to an English father and a Chinese mother. The family moved to the UK when she was 12, swapping the world's most densely populated city for a rural village between a Mormon temple, a Steiner community and the centre of British Scientology. The family went with the 'lesser of three weirdos' and sent the kids to Steiner school. A fascination with the freedom of the British countryside was developed in these surroundings and emerged in the often pastoral nature of the band's first album, "First Love".
First Love, released in 2009, was recorded in the Lancashire moors, outside Manchester, where Emma and Euan first came together as a band. The album was album of the week in the Sunday Times Culture, and ranked as one of the New York Times' Albums of the Year for 2009, while Clash Magazine described Emma as 'Quite simply the female counterpart to Bon Iver'. The NME took a more critical view, asking 'Who calls themselves Emmy anyway?" Poignantly, the album had two top ten singles in Hong Kong, bringing Emma home for the first time in years to play a widely-publicised 'homecoming' gig.
The band's second album, Virtue, will be released in 2011. Mixing themes from myths, fairy tales and saints' lives, using the voices of archetypal female protagonists, and mixing classical images with the modern industrial images that have replaced them, the album started out as a purely third person project, but took on a personal tinge when Emma got caught up in her fiance's sudden religious conversion and the break-up of their relationship. The album was recorded very quickly after the summer of her cancelled wedding, with chief bridesmaid Euan, and legendary producer Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Grizzly Bear, These New Puritans).