While many of her counterparts have moved away from their indie folk foundations to more pop leanings, Emily Jane White has done the complete opposite. She has instead headed into a more mythical and mystical direction, offering music that stirs the soul while triggering memories of stories and moments of our past.
Her new LP – and fifth in nine years – They Moved in Shadow All Together takes us to our childhood, offering a concept album that is like a fairy tale coming to life. Its re-telling of the undying love story and the blossoming of a heroine is akin to the great storytelling told on Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty or any of the great stories we all know. However, this fairy tale is not for the faint of heart nor has a happy ending. Musically, the record is beautiful, vivid, rich, and enchanting, filled with spectacular, sonic moments. At times, it approaches the quiet chamber euphoria of Laura Marling, the dramatic grace of Marissa Nadler, the ethereal euphoria of Enya, or all three simultaneously.
The spectacular “The Black Dove” embodies all three of these influences with its percussion-driven approach that mimics the fluttering heart of the heroine and the listener. The lead single and opening track, “Frozen Garden”, is lush and inviting like a Hope Sandoval / Mazzy Starr tune but raised several notches higher on the enchantment scale, particularly with majestic lyrics such as:
“Take me down to the dusty garden, overgrown, aged and rotting
Here they lie children foresaken
and I see myself as one among them.”
The most powerful track on the album, however, is “Nightmares on Repeat”. On this song, White sings with a delicate frailty as she tells a story of a person having to re-live a harrowing experience over and over again. The final words on the song, which are repeated over the final 45 seconds, “You are beautiful, you are beautiful”, may seem innocent yet they carry such an enormous weight. These words are meant to console, yet the person saying them knows full well the pain and memories will never go away. It is a powerless feeling experienced by the one hearing the words and the one saying them.
“Rupturing” builds on “Nightmares on Repeat”, but it is a new chapter that is being opened by the protagonist. The wounds and scars, though, will never go away nor will “they ever bleed again”, as White sings on “Moulding”. The inclusion of a Latin-style guitar riff is ingenuous, as it creates a calm yet chilling atmosphere to this startling song. “The Ledge”, meanwhile, uses the familiar piano as the song’s foundation to create the haunting soundscape. The song, too, is soul-crushing, as throughout the three minutes we walk alongside the protagonist as she contemplates taking the final step. White, though, doesn’t leave us with an empty feeling, but provides a glimmer of hope on “Behind The Glass”, a simple but beautiful tune about new opportunities and a new life.
In some ways, “Behind The Glass”, could be a song about Emily Jane White, who for a decade has shared some of the most beautiful and poignant songs (“Hole in the Middle” from Dark Undercoat is a classic). While she could taken the path of least resistance and one that could be more lucrative, she has opted to continue to hone her craft and create songs that penetrate through every pore and into our souls. Her music is beautiful yet dark, at times crippling yet always rewarding. They Moved In Shadow All Together is no different, an album that reward those with patience and who allow themselves to be taken away into White’s enchanting world.
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