Emma-Stage Lights EP (Review)

Having made a strong impression on Manchester’s Open Mic Scene as of late with her powerful voice, Emma recently celebrated her debut EP launch night at the Old Pint Pot in Salford. Let’s see what it’s like:

The EP opens with the title track, and the slow paced percussive guitar work underlines the soft vocal delivery of Emma’s shy story, as conveyed in lines like “I don’t speak in real life, but god do I do nightlife”. Emma channels her empowering extroversion from live performance in this song that builds nicely despite the unacademic chord choices.

The Bury Songstress succeeds with a love letter to her country influences with “Somewhere South of Paradise”. Starting with thick Musgravian harmonies, Emma’s resonant performance includes great light and shade that lead into meaty choruses with an almost Alanis Morissette vibe to it. The southern rock song evokes a blistering guitar solo by Matt Jones, but it very quickly outstays its welcome with Jones’ prog-rock tendancies, and the last minute of the song is a mess of parts trampling on each other for space. Arrangement issue aside, it’s otherwise a solid song.

“Wear Me Out” will probably be received as a palette cleanser but it’s a great song in its own right. The delicate fingerpicked guitar greatly support the soft vocal verses. The choruses are simple in their composition, but they’re sweet in their delivery bringing potency in the right places, and the influence of Avril Lavigne on Emma is quite apparent in this track, especially with its belting final minute.

From that stripped arrangement “Tragic Hero” hits you from out of nowhere. This Pop Rock blast tinged with country begins with spacious tom rhythms that sound almost artificial, but the verse instantly demands head bobbing and foot tapping. Emma’s voice leans into the groove of this track and she sings with such attitude befitting of a P!nk album. The choruses attack you with a wall of harmonies and pounding drums, creating something truly immersive and befitting of the power that Emma’s pipes carry.

From that we close with the shorter “Wasting My Time”. This playful track combines the cheeky “ow” and “hey” of 2007-era Avril with a driving rhythm and a rapid pace, and it feels like something out of a Disney Channel movie. The choruses are fantastically catchy, aided by the tightness of her backing band, even if the electric guitar feels somewhat unwelcome, but the song builds to a robust end to the EP.

Overall, Emma presents a good debut. With Emma being seriously involved in music for only a year, this is her first outing. The passion and enthusiasm is definitely present on this record, but so is the inexperience. You can hear where she experiments with layers of harmonies, but you can also hear where she misses the mark on the execution of them. I largely like the songs on here, especially considering my love of some of her influences (Lily Allen, Pink, Avril Lavigne and more), but I feel like her creativity needed to be controlled a little more, like the clean pop packages she grew up listening to. This is a good EP, but with a little more restraint her next one will be great. 7/10

You can listen to Stage Lights here:

Marc Gallagher