Tiny Truths (EP)

Emily Shirley

Independent release, 2010


REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson


Without a doubt, Emily Shirley is an acquired taste. Her quirky lyrics and music are something I began to enjoy only after repeatedly listening to this in a single sitting one day at work. It was then that I finally absorbed the amazing array of intricacies in these five songs. I wasn’t too crazy about any of this material when I first listened. Shirley has won me over, though, because of her individualism. It is different enough to keep my interest. And, given the same type of investment (perhaps you won’t need as long as I did, depending upon your tendencies in the vast musical universe), you will discover an amazing songwriter and singer.

Kicking off with “Flowers,” Shirley introduces a snare drum, wind chimes, a woodwind (clarinet?), acoustic guitar, perhaps a violin, and keyboards – and there may be many more instruments I’m not listening. It’s a whimsical song talking about “Damn flowers never grow / Reaching for the light / Struggle and in the end / Choked out.” Also, there are these interesting lyrics: “Say a prayer/ You never cared about moderation / It’s all about temptation / The choir sings an extra hymn / You hope it will get you in / Salvation,” which give you an idea about the words being sung but not about the phrasing that Shirley employs to deliver these thoughts.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Taking The Sun” is more straight-forward than the “Flowers” with an actual snare backbeat on the 2 and 4 beat, a bass line, and an acoustic guitar. Vocally, this is the highlight track for Shirley. She captures the soul and charisma of Letters To Cleo’s Kay Hanley, literally unloading her soul on the listener’s ear. She sings, “I’m taking the sun / And you can’t have it back / I’m taking the moon / And I will paint it black.”

She follows that track with “Earnest,” which is more subdued with ‘train of thought’ lyrics, most notably, “If earnest is a curse / Then I’m pretty much screwed / Because I take myself serious / That my face is turning blue.” The music is secondary on this track without a solid melody being played by the instruments. It’s the song I routinely began to gloss through the more I listened to it.

The silly “Blueberry Song” follows at only 1:48 in length. This song is closer to “Flowers” than any of the other songs. A trombone tooting and a violin plucking make up the dominant musical landscape. Shirley’s vocals are put through some sort of an effects machine, which makes it harder for me to get into this track. It’s better than “Earnest” but not better than “Taking The Sun.” Concluding this release is “Quiet Hours,” which brings back the soul and emotion that made “Taking The Sun” so powerful.

Emily Shirley is on to something with these songs. There are enough variations in style, from “Flowers” to “Earnest,” to make this an interesting release.  Constructively, I would have ditched “Earnest” and released this as a stronger four song EP. The strongest thing Shirley has going for her is that she is not writing songs that sound familiar the first time you hear them. This works to her advantage.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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