Unsure and Meandering
Identity might be the most important part of music. It’s certainly among the most important topics of the recent past, between the massive discussion surrounding racial and gender identities all the way to national identities, knowing (or not knowing) who you are has forced itself into the forefront of today’s culture. Much like the current lexicon, few things are more important than identity in music, with only a scant few albums a year managing to successfully subvert the idea of cohesion — some good examples from recent memory include Lemonade and The Life of Pablo. Unfortunately for Emily Wells, the scattered presentation of In the Hot is confusing, immersion-breaking and often lost in its own desires.
The first song of the album is a study in the issues of the record as a whole. “Pack of Nobodies” begins with a driving beat which is then mutilated by meandering singing that eventually becomes a mess of a song. The beat falls apart into strings, then is taped back together as Wells attempts to introduce some light noise in the otherwise cleanly-produced track. The titular song, “In the Hot,” begins with an engaging string portion that goes a long way toward fostering an atmosphere before being completely torn down by a thumping bass beat and the same unsure and lingering vocals that plagued the structure of the last song. Eventually the strings take a center place, but merely serve as the same eerie string background found far too often in horror films. One of the main standouts of the album is the third track, “Antidote,” which actually manages to maintain a fairly consistent feeling throughout its duration. The slower section near the end is short enough to not distract from the Stranger Things-esque beat, allowing the song a brief reprieve and slight tempo change. The remainder of the album is shorter and still sufferers from many of the same issues of the first track, the singing is distracting and the instrumentation far too meandering to ever be truly engaging.
Identity is important. In the end, it may be all that someone has. It is so important that those without it risk slipping into non-existence entirely. Unfortunately for Emily Wells, identity is something wildly lacking from In the Hot, as each track becomes less engaging and more lost than the last. The singing is altogether far too distracting and is forced into strange places in the mix, while the electronics — the best-done portion of the record — are left to wander with strange strings that never do anything particularly interesting. Hopefully, Wells can find her musical identity soon, before she is lost altogether.