WVAU Top Music of 2011: #4

Cameron Meindl, Sharon Din

#4 Album: EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints

Past Life Martyred Saints is an album that encompasses the feelings of disappointment and creeping failure that singer EMA experienced after moving to California to become an artist; her own account being that of devastation and emotional implosion that left her drained. Since then, she’s been offered redemption through the retelling of her struggle in what can be described as stark naked emotion that continuously sends sparks soaring up your spine.

It’s the delivery, striking lyrical imagery, and dark atmosphere that sweeps you up into her world. Her deft reversal of simultaneous devastation and beauty is powerful and lucid. The instrumentals give her songs a dreamy feel, yet they are unforgiving in their presence. The subject matter that she sings about is subjective and personal, yet without being cloying she reaches out and taps into a universal vein of raw emotion. The songs vary instrumentally in their sound and influence which covers a wide experimental range, but the album stays cohesive through EMA‰’s unrelenting voice and the feeling that her lyrics have broken bad; like sonic variations on her tragedy of losing everything.

By Sharon Din

#4 Song: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Let‰’s get this point out of the way: “Helplessness Blues‰” is an absolutely gorgeous song. Robin Pecknold‰’s melodies are as strong as ever, and the group harmonies are consistently sublime. But then again, you already knew that would be the case with the Fleet Foxes. So what is it that makes “Helplessness Blues‰” so special?

Try the improved songwriting of Pecknold, who now relies on introspective lyrics rather than simple, repeated lines dressed up in pretty vocal arrangements. Over an urgently strummed acoustic guitar, Pecknold muses over the loss of identity before succumbing to the fact that he might actually be content with said anonymity. However, by the time the full band arrives and makes its mark on the track, Pecknold reconsiders: “Someday I‰’ll be like the man on the screen.‰”

A song as great as “Helplessness Blues‰” is proof that Pecknold and company aren‰’t willing to just merely be faces in the ever-growing indie-folk crowd; in fact, they are positioned to become its leaders.

By Cameron Meindl