Kicking off a UK tour on the day you release your new album is a risky business. We've all trudged out of venues having spent hours listening to unfamiliar songs, when all we really wanted was the warm-blanket older stuff. Friday saw the release of Emmy the Great's third album and with it an evening spent upstairs at Oxford's O2 Academy, cautiously passing on her new material to a small but appreciative audience. And it really, really worked.
First up were a pair of solo support acts. Sam Martin is an electric guitarist with a shy, Jeff Buckley demeanour and gorgeous voice. He was followed by O Karmina, tucked away at the side of the stage with only a microphone, small keyboard and delay pedal for company. She's an interesting performer, providing her own percussion and backing vocals via the delay unit. Her songs don't necessarily take hold instantly but she's definitely worth watching out for in the future.
Emmy the Great consists primarily of singer-songwriter Emma-Lee Moss, with band members having come and gone throughout the past decade. Almost five years have passed since her last album, Virtue, was released, and clearly the world's moved on during that time. However, Emmy's allowed her sound to grow and the new, more electronic material sounds terrific on first listen.
The new songs seem to be themed around the difficulties of love in the age of technology and the band are flanked by a pair of tall screens featuring ghostly, glitching projections of a dancing Emmy. This small touch really does add to the atmosphere and, as always, her sweet voice disguises the darkness in her lyrics – there's plenty of humour and hope, but happy endings are rare.
80% of the new album, Second Love, is on show tonight and it's fascinating to hear how naturally it all slots in alongside older tracks like 'Paper Forest', 'We Almost Had a Baby' and the wonderfully titled set opener, 'Dinosaur Sex'.
Filling your set with new material is a brave decision but it's certainly one which paid off tonight. It felt much more of a treat than a trudge, and that says a lot about both the songs and Emmy's confidence as a performer. Reading this means you've missed the Oxford leg of her tour but do try and catch Emmy the Great in the future, and have a listen to the new album. You won't be disappointed.