NEW - Emma Louise, Lilac Everything
Emma Louise’s enchanting new album Lilac Everything is the product of a handful of successful gambles. The Australian singer-songwriter tried to break herself out of a funk by booking an impulsive flight from Melbourne to Mexico, where she found the inspiration she needed to write most of Lilac Everything. She sent a cold pitch with demos attached to Tobias Jesso Jr., the pop balladeer who’s transitioned to working behind the scenes since releasing his debut album Goon in 2015, and he liked them so much he agreed to produce her album in full. And when Louise and Jesso were just about to finish their sessions together, she asked him to pitch her vocals down, dragging them out of her natural soprano range and into a full, creamy baritone. This series of bold moves has led Louise into uncharted territory; the stark, solitary crooning of Lilac Everything is a far cry from the art-pop that filled albums like 2016’s Supercry.
Louise first played with pitching down her voice while recording her first album, but the idea sat on the shelf until Lilac Everything was nearly complete. “I didn’t want it to be like another character or anything like that,” said Louise in a recent interview. “I recorded it on tape and we slowed it down and I called that voice ‘Joseph,’ and I was like, “I want to do a whole album like this one day!’” She doesn’t sound unrecognizable, but the lower pitch imbues her singing with a dense, mournful quality. (I heard the elegant “Never Making Plans Again” and thought about Adele’s robust lower register, a fitting touchpoint given the diva’s work with Jesso on 25 highlight “When We Were Young.”)
While Louise may not have written and recorded with Joseph in mind, there are a few moments on Lilac Everything in which her original tracking taps into her new voice’s masculine potential. She lags behind the beat and peppers verses with wordless ad-libs on “Falling Apart,” inhabiting a relationship that’s inching towards failure; when she opens “Wish You Well” by sighing “There she is,” you can imagine some bearded loner daydreaming about a woman until the perspective shifts midway through the verse.