New Spin on Classic Sounds
Singer-songwriter Scout Niblett seems to have studied up on her American grunge. Throughout the nine songs on It’s up To Emma, Niblett meanders through the dark, dirty, and simplistic underworld of that late 1980s and early 1990s West coast movement—but with her own spin. Niblett’s natural ability and her beautiful voice fill out the raw, moody, and sometimes empty feel of her songs, giving them psychedelic feel reminiscent of Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane performing “White Rabbit.”
The songs themselves are very minimal in regard to instrumentation; the guitar is the only instrument that is continuously played throughout the album. Each song starts with a droning guitar riff which begins to feel stale after a few tracks, but Niblett’s vocals swoop in and save the tracks as they build into a crescendo of strings, light synths, more guitar, minimal drums and vocal harmony– all while still maintaining a youthful angst.
The angst itself is apparent from the opening track, “Gun,” where Niblett violently laments a lost love and alludes to her plan to exact revenge, singing, “In a crowd someday / You won’t see it coming anyway.” The mood set in this opening track and remains constant throughout the entire album. “Second Chance Dreams” expands on the psychedelic yet simplistic style of the songs and really digs into that 1990s grunge tone during the refrain. Niblett’s vocal channels Black Francis in this very Pixies-esque delivery, but her smooth voice lacks the scratchy, off-key angularity of Francis—but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Then comes more ’90s throwbacks—but not of the same variety. “No Scrubs”– Oh yes, a cover TLC’s 1999 Grammy Award winning single reemerges from the depths of the 20th century. This song is so unique that some listeners may be confused by its inclusion on the record. Despite all that, it is well-executed, as Niblett makes it fit with the rest of the album. The final track, “What Can I Do,” leaves the listener feeling as if he’s gotten somewhere, or, at least, Niblett has, during the album. The chord progression is strikingly similar to Radiohead’s brooding hit “Creep,” but Niblett ascends into her own stratosphere with a sense of catharsis breaking into the most melodic, uplifting chorus of the whole album, leaving the listener with the notion that “It’s up to Emma,” or—really—it’s up to you where you go from here.