Powerful, dark imagery and intimate tales from this promising teenage singer-songwriter, who’s definitely one to watch.
Listening to 19-year-old, Detroit-based, indie-folk artist Emma Guzman’s new album, ‘Something Less Than Alone’, during the recent UK heatwave provided some much-needed respite – on the beautiful and atmospheric first song, the country-tinged ‘Blue October’, she sings about how “the winter sky will have its grieving, so autumn days are laced with stardust.”
The opener, in which she also tells us how she “hung my head like a wilted rose” and “walked for miles in another man’s clothes”, sets the scene for what will follow – Guzman’s haunting and intimate songs are loaded with striking imagery.
The spectre of death looms large over the wintry and melancholy ‘Moving Along’, with its sad organ: “She crept toward the station with smoke on her breath and the hounds did bellow and moan,” while on the fragile ‘Love Bites’ she describes how a lover’s “nightmares hang like shrunken heads over this rotting bed.”
Guzman is an adept lyricist but ‘Something Less Than Alone’ could do with more variety musically. Its largely slow pace and often samey, stripped-back instrumentation, essentially guitar, bass and drums, means the album meanders at time.
There are some welcome keys on a few songs, like the organ on ‘Moving Along’ and some piano on ‘Flood’ – the latter stands out as it ups the tempo and also has some great fuzzy guitar.
Despite its shortcomings, ‘Something Less Than Alone’ is a fantastic achievement for someone who is only 19 – a very mature record – and what’s even more surprising is that Guzman started writing it when she was 14.
“It’s definitely a coming-of-age album,” she reflects. “These are really the songs that represent how I’ve grown over these years, both as a person and a songwriter. I’ve made friends, lost friends, got my heart broken a couple of times, been a camp counsellor, worked at Subway, and more. I’ve been all over the place, and I wanted to get it all out there.”
We’ll definitely be hearing a lot more of her.