Some people just can’t help it. They try to be nice, but they bring out the worst in you. Emma-Lee Moss is one of those people. To use inaccurate and crass gender stereotyping, she’s the kind of delicate, fragile, girlish creature who makes men involuntarily melt into helpless pools of adoration and women involuntarily itch to dash her brains out against the nearest hard surface.
Restrain your cynicism from her long-in-the-making, self-funded debut just for a while, though, and you uncover moments of real beauty that surpass the overall prettiness; most strongly on the simple ‘Absentee’, a tale of childhood bereavement that borrows its “kyrie eleison” refrain from the requiem mass.Her lyrical world, too, is far from mittens, kittens and unicorns – so obsessed is she with death, unplanned pregnancy and tragically flawed relationships she could give Thomas Hardy a run for his money. Problem is, her constant stance of diary-entry victimhood fast becomes more grating than engaging. Take the faux-Crystals cautionary tale of ‘We Almost Had A Baby’ where a child nearly becomes a bargaining chip for emotional power: “I would have liked to to have something above you/To have something to hold/And know I could choose to let it grow”.
Not that weakness is in any way a sin. Vulnerability has long been the singer-songwriter’s stock-in-trade, and it’s kind of refreshing to hear someone who’s not buying into the Pussycat Dolls bitch-goddess model of post-feminist empowerment in which men are only there to be dissed and dismissed. But still, Laura Marling, six years Emmy’s junior, sounds far more worldly wise, and there’s a sense of naivety, rather than innocence, that stops the album being as Joni Mitchell as it thinks it is. Only when she stops trying so hard, as on the Mazzy Star-ish waltz of ‘Everything Reminds Me Of You’, does it sound, well… quite nice.
Ultimately, the warm blanket of Emmy’s twinkly confessional soon starts feeling a bit wet, and by the lacklustre strums of the title track you’re mentally slicing through her strings with your punk-rock garden shears. ‘MIA’ even manages to make a car crash sound inoffensively boring. And who calls themselves Emmy? We’d rather not remember this first time.