I want to talk about ice-cream. Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream to be precise. Everyone has a favourite flavour right? Mine is without question, “Chunky Monkey”. Banana ice-cream with fudge chunks and walnuts. To. Die. For. Almost unbearably sweet, but so so good. And that’s exactly what Emma Stevens’ new record is. Waves is a polished and dreamy acoustic pop album that is simple and refined, and I imagine a teenage girls dream. Reminiscent of Michelle Branch and Taylor Swift, Emma focusses on love, distance and positivity to bring a collection of delicious songs, just like big chunks of fudge and walnuts.
Emma quotes Sheryl Crow when she says “You don’t need more than four chords to write a song” and keeps it simple for this record, never straying too far from her calling card of pretty melodies and breathy vocals. She ups the ante by enveloping them in an impressive array of strings with everything from the acoustic guitar to the ukelele, banjo and mandolin making an appearance. From the catchy, upbeat opening in Stop The World and the chanty, percussive elements in Yes, Emma oozes positivity and good vibes. No track says simplicity like Amaretto Kisses, completely embracing not only the country-folk side of Emma’s songwriting, but the cliche in the lyrics in a real and tangible way.
The chocolate chips of the record are certainly found in Emma’s more vulnerable and stripped back moments. Helium is immediately darker and interesting, with a pretty wind chime effect and an offbeat vocal, culminating in a big, memorable chorus. Nothing Serious serves as the ballad, taking the beat down with a delicate vocal performance and lyrics that are equally sweet and sad; think Taylor Swift’s Breathe. And there are other impressive comparisons to be made on Waves. Singer Of My Song has a tender, Ellie Goulding type quality while closing track Walking replaces the guitar with the piano as Emma’s instrument of choice, channeling Vanessa Carlton. The repetitive lyrics and instrumentation of this song wash over you to deliver one of the finest moments on the record.
But like most things, I fear Waves won’t be to everyone’s taste. There are certainly songs here and there that take the record from “Chunky Monkey” scrumptiousness into “Everything But The…” territory. A collision of chocolate & vanilla ice-creams mixed with peanut butter cups, fudge-covered toffee pieces, white chocolatey chunks & fudge-covered almonds. Nothing not to like, but all together far too much and sickly sweet. You’ll have to decide for yourself but for me, Waves is a dessert buffet of treats where I’ll take what I like and leave the rest, but all in all a lovely offering from a blossoming artist that is only on the way up.