Anglophile in New York #1: On Emmy the Great and first loves

Emmy the Great performs at Rough Trade Records in Brooklyn.

Anglophile in New YorkWelcome to the first installment of Anglophile in New York, an occasional (definitely not regular) series of essays on music and life from our New York correspondent, Jeany Lee. I’ve known Jeany for many years now, although we have yet to meet – but we almost did in Seoul. But I digress. She’s lived a life steeped in music, from her teenage days growing up in Los Angeles, to her time working in New York and London. I invited her to join the blog because I think you’ll enjoy reading things from a different perspective. But enough nattering from me.

I don’t quite remember the first time I heard Emmy the Great. It might have been either on the former XFM or on one of Steve Lamacq’s shows. Back then, I had access to Spotify and would listen to First Love on a loop at two in the morning. It was one of my favourite records and I couldn’t get enough of it. I had a feeling she’d come stateside one day soon. I got her CD for free when I was doing work experience at the XFM breakfast show with Alex Zane. I will forever treasure First Love on many levels.

When Virtue came out, Emmy finally came to New York. I first saw her in 2011 at the Studio at Webster Hall. Luckily, I had my friend Harriet visiting me from London to come with me to the gig. I remember that day we went vintage shopping and she bought a pair of shoes that fell apart when we got to my apartment in Times Square. I had a pair of Anna Sui boots laying around my apartment and told her I spent a grand on them (that’s US dollars, not pounds sterling – to be fair) and she thought I was insane. Whatever. I digress. The show was amazing and only $10. I was so happy she finally came to New York, finally. Since Emmy is UK antifolk, it’s not customary to sing along loudly to her tunes. Basically, it’s not a Frank Turner show; you can do that at Frank Turner in the States.

Today I just came back from Rough Trade Brooklyn to see Emmy The Great perform some of her songs from Second Love. The gig, it was short but supremely lovely. I missed her gig at Baby’s All Right in February because my best friend Melissa was playing with Circadian Clock at Knitting Factory. But this was perfect – one of my favorite English folk artists in my favorite space. I also bought Second Love and it’s currently playing on my record player. The opening song is an updated version of “Swimming Pool”, something I first heard on the S EP. I love “Algorithm” and “Hyperlink” to bits, and hearing “Algorithm” live was heaps amazing.

Emmy also signed my vinyl copy and I told her about the time I got First Love after doing work experience with Alex, and I was so happy when she came to the Studio at Webster Hall during Virtue. She was gracious and told me she lived in New York now. That’s certainly great news for me; now I can see her more often live. A lot of my favorite British acts, I rarely get to see them, and when I do, I make sure I catch the gig.

Second Love also came with an Emmy CD singing in Chinese. I wish I understood it, but it sounds lovely, as she always does.

The linear notes of Second Love explain her journey in making the record. I can empathize with the entire essay; I too had issues with trying to live in Los Angeles and wondered if I had a future doing anything creative as a career.

This quote from Jon Ronson of Emmy’s linear notes in Second Love says it best. “I think Emma’s generation – she’s just turned 30 – and the generation below hers, are pretty unhappy ones,” he said. “There’s a lot of ambition and not much success. Most people fail. The Internet has made it so much harder to earn a living from writing or creating music and it’s made everyone feel more isolated than they anticipated. Sometimes I wonder if the tech utopians like Larry Page ever stop to think, ‘What have we done?’”

I wonder why I even tried to join those tech utopias. It was never me. I’d rather do something creative. However, that’s another story for another day. [JL]

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