"…and upon an old horse she entered a town called Misery." Such is the type of cinematic image that multi-instrumentalist Emily Wells’ latest will place in your brain. Like a Brontë novel got boiled down into audio form, ‘Promise’ is heavy on the drama and atmosphere.
This eleven-track set wears its heart on its sleeve from the off with opener ‘Los Angeles’, a haunting and melancholic tribute to the city of broken dreams. Filled with slow orchestral sweeps, and at over seven minutes in length, it’s clear that ‘Promise’ isn’t going to be your next party jam. The following ‘You Dream Of China’ brings much of the same, arresting vocals, layer upon layer of interlocking melodies and a tear to the eye. All of this is executed with admirable perfection and thought but leaves one feeling suffocated.
‘Don’t Use Me Up’ loosens the noose a little to allow a dreamy love ditty to appear, proving one of the album's gems with its effective repetition. It shows that with just a little more breathing room the songs here would be go down a lot smoother, as is the case with ‘Come To Me’. It still may be the furthest thing from minimalism but it’s orchestral flourishes and wonderful backing vocals create a fantastic piece of Americana.
Wells’ talent is undeniable but this is an album to digest in small doses, to soundtrack twilight on a Sunday. A band mentality may of allowed the material to work some new ground but as a solo project we’ve a dense collection all sticking to one vision. One to dip into when the storm clouds are approaching.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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