Heart Comma Heart
Galuminum Foil, 2007
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/15/2008
Dangerous is perhaps not the adjective you expect to come to mind first when starting up a review of a female singer-songwriter named Emily Easterly whose latest album is titled Heart Comma Heart. But as precious as that description might sound, this Emily’s soul sisters are Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith and Meg White, not Hannah Montana.
Heart Comma Heart is a moody, often angry disc that rails about the agonies of one-sided love (“Rocks,” “Count”), declares the ferocious certainty of youth (“Youth On My Side”), and invokes the name of a musical icon to make a point about self-destructive tendencies (“Neil Young Knows What I’m Talking About”). Each cut features a tight arrangement, generally twin guitars and drums a la White Stripes, with no bass and occasional keyboards. This approach gives these tracks a kind of raw, garage-y feel that belies the quality of the composition. On first listen, these songs feel visceral and immediate, though upon study they’ve clearly been arranged with care and precision.
Harder tracks like “Shotgun Wedding” and “Shy” are positively cathartic, unleashing their pent-up fury directly in the listener’s face. “Holly,” by contrast, goes for a dreamy, smoky vibe and works to a steamy close. The piano-driven title track is a confessional, but about a hundred shades darker than a conventional one. Each of these varied tracks taps into Easterly’s darkest emotions to deliver a bracing, potent cocktail of confidence and pain.
Like Frank Carrillo and Joe Thompson before her, Easterly’s secret weapon is co-producer/multi-instrumentalist Chris Cubeta , who helps each of these songs find its natural groove and provides strong supporting textures on acoustic and electric guitars, Rhodes, piano, and background vocals.
Heart Comma Heart confronts the listener with a gripping rawness that dares you not to invest yourself in its dark secrets. Good luck with that.