Album Review: Scout Niblett – It’s Up to Emma

scout_niblett_its_up_to_emmaScout Niblett’s newest effort It’s Up To Emma, out now on Drag City, presents a collection of raw, sparse, and eerie electric folk songs that sprawl out in moody tendrils. For those unfamiliar with Niblett’s work, imagine an edgy, crunchier Cat Power. Niblett wastes no time delving into her brand of distorted folk rock that permeates the album. “Gun” opens the record with dry minimal snare and grumbling chords that sink into the backdrop as Niblett wails, “I think I’m gonna buy me a gun, a nice little silver one.”

Most of the songs on the record follow this format. These are slow burners—a soundtrack for late night porch sitting on sultry southern nights, laden with heavy conversations held over cigarettes and coffee mugs full of straight whiskey. Niblett’s voice is mournful, powerful, and evocative. The subtle cello on “My Man” is a nice touch that fades into higher strings and tambourine as Niblett laments, “My maaaan, oh uh whoa.”

The songs navigate through dissonant notes and gritty guitar crunch before Niblett delivers a late album surprise in the form of a cover of TLC’s “No Scrubs.” It’s the shortest song on the album and an absolute gem. I could be wrong, but I think everyone loves the song, and Niblett’s version possesses a serious edge of groove and soul while still managing to be a completely reimagined folk rendition and obviously tongue in cheek.

To close the album, Niblett delivers two questions on “Could This Possibly Be?” and “What Can I Do?” The latter is the longest song of the bunch—a slowly unfurling, plaintive song directed at a former lover. The song climbs and swells halfway through, as Niblett’s voice is suddenly expansive and buoyed by sustained string notes and steady percussion. The whirl of music dwindles down to lonely dissonant guitar chords like a fire dying out—the last embers of a smoldering cigarette left burning in the ashtray that sits with empty mugs on a wooden table between half-dozing friends after a long southern night.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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