Emily Wells Mama – Album Review

After appearing alongside Clint Mansell and Philip Glass on the soundtrack for Park Chan-Wook’s recent psychological thriller Stoker with her track Becomes the Colour, Emily Wells prepares to release her debut UK album.

Her album Mama is out on June 3 via Partisan. It combines subtle hip-hop inflections and wide-ranging sounds with Emily’s distinctive feline vocals, creating a record that is simultaneously light and delicate with a bold punch of personality. Contrasting with the heavy layering and electronics of the original album, the UK version of Mama sees Wells re-imagining the entire record acoustically for a second disc and mirror version. These fresh renditions of an already unique record are stunningly austere, recorded solely with voice and guitar. Emily Wells has stripped off her own armour, leaving only her crystalline voice and equally unambiguous songwriting on display.

Mama was recorded in a cabin on a horse ranch in Tapanga Canyon last year. Most of the instruments featured on the record were recorded and produced by Wells. With Wells’ background being classical (she is a trained classical violinist), you wouldn’t expect her to play or produce the music she does.

Emily Wells

Singer songwriter Emily Wells

The first track Piece Of It breaks the album in very gently. It’s deceiving in some ways as it’s an extremely simple and slow song unlike the rest of the album. Even so, it’s a fantastic track with whispering vocals, soothing acoustic guitar and pleasant ringing tones. Usually, an explosive song is used for a first track on an album but not in this instance. Piece Of It draws the listener in with its meditative style music and memorable lyrics.

Track two Dirty Sneakers and Underwear is where Wells’ hip-hop influences shine through. The  male vocals which she harmonises with add another layer to an already intriguing track. Musically, Dirty Sneakers and Underwear has a Lounge feel to it with hip-hop style rapping. Wells’ really does know how to produce unusual songs that leak so many different influences. Dirty Sneakers and Underwear swaps from hip-hop to lounge to world to alternative and back again. The next track Mama’s Gonna Give You Love blends R ‘n’ B drum beats with folk inspired vocals. Wells’ raps again in this number but combines it with deep bassy, Lounge inspired tones. It works surprisingly well although this song may be one of the more difficult tracks to get into on the record. The chorus will continually float around in your head as will those deep bassy tones that will continue to ring in your ears.

Johnny Cash’s Mama’s House is a great summer track with relaxed vocals against the back drop of lazy strings and softly played drums. The banjo towards the end introduces faint folk influences. The whole song is very cleverly mixed and produced so certain instruments can be heard at different times. It highlights all the diverse influences that make Wells’ music so intriguing.

Let Your Guard Down is the most breath-taking track on Mama. It’s the only song with strong blues influences seeping through every layer. Wells’ vocals will send a shiver down your spine. It’s a raw track with outstanding vocals, raw drums and a soft blues rock feel. This song wouldn’t sound amiss in the 60s or 70s as it has a very experimental rock sound to it. This track would be amazing performed live. Wells’ vocals are packed full of emotion and passion while the gentle blues music that accompanies them help to bring all that emotion to a head. The lyrics in this song are also some of the best on the record. The lyrics “You got a house in the desert/Got a house by the sea/You got everything you wanted yeah everything but me/You let your guard down/Baby let your guard down…” and “All I ever knew about being in love is what I learnt from you/I let my guard down…I got a house in the country got a house by the sea/I got everything I wanted yeah everything but me/I let my guard down…” I’m sure everyone can relate to these lyrics. Let Your Guard down tells the same old story of trust and breaking that trust in relationships – the break down of a relationship leaves you with a sense that you’ve lost part of yourself. This song highlights humanity’s vulnerability.

Emily Wells

Emily Wells

No Good is another fantastically written song which showcases people’s lack of faith in themselves and the struggles some people face when entering into new relationships. The lyrics, “I’m no good at being loved…Wake up in your bed/Wake in a cherry tree/Falling out on the dewy ground you know how to touch a bruised body…” These lyrics really highlight the message behind this song. It’s a song about a vulnerable person who has scars from previous relationships and the willingness of the new partner to take that on. It has a wonderfully relaxing beat and brilliantly skatty vocals.

Darlin’ is one of the more dramatic tracks on Mama. It has a psychedelic feel to it with bassy tones combined with floating, airy harmonies. It’s anthemic to say the least. It’s also Emily Wells’ latest single to be released. Darlin’ can be heard here. Although this song sounds reasonably upbeat, there’s definitely deeper more sombre undertones to be heard. It’s also another track that expresses humanity’s vulnerability through the lyrics, “If I had any sense/If I had my innocence/I’d take you home with me…”

Emily Wells has produced a breath-taking album in Mama. It’s an album that showcases Wells’ talents in a raw and overly honest way. The lyrics capture the vulnerability of the human race. Mama captures the ups and downs of being human. It’s a rollercoaster ride as is life. Mama will inspire you in more ways than one.

Mama is out on June 3 through Partisan Records.

Emily Wells has just this week announced her first ever UK live date at Water Rats in London on June. Emily Wells will also be supporting Kurt Vile on his tour for three dates across Europe (dates below).

June 6 – Berlin, Germany Bi Nuu*
June 7 – Cologne, Germany Gebaude 9*
June 8 – Paris, France La Maroquinerie*
June 9 – Gent, Belgium Huiskamer Ernest
* supporting Kurt Vile

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