Emma Frank – Come Back

Album Review | Justin Time | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 5/5

American by birth and resident in Canada, like a kind of mirror Joni Mitchell, Emma Frank is an intimate and sophisticated sounding vocalist. Come Back released on Montreal label Justin Time is her forth album. There is something of contemporary chilled vocalists like Elena Tonra from Daughter and Ex:Re, but the obvious comparison with that slightly layered vocal with flourishes at the end of lines on “I Thought” and “Either Way” is the restrained folk jazz Joni Mitchell of Blue and Hejira. “Either Way” with its rippling piano and reflective lyric is a thing of absolute beauty. The sparse languid rhythm on “Two Hours” and minimal backing suggests Agnes Obel fronting The Blue Nile. There is a space and sense of timelessness with sublime vocal runs and a Radiohead type glissando guitar or keyboard wash that carries you away. After the shimmering glissendo of “Two Hours” the piano on “Sometimes” and “Promises” is folky and intimate, Emma’s vocal manages to be intimate Joni and to soar like early Judie Tzuke.

The simple arrangements and intimate soundscapes make this beautiful album sound like a club gig with an audience of one. Restraint, like the jazzy piano rain drop flourishes on “Promises” and shuffle drum beat, is the key to the emotion and atmosphere. Less is, definitely more, nothing is here that doesn’t need to be. “Dream Team” ideal theme music for a melancholic Scandinavian Detective Thriller, is a beautiful piece of vocalese and piano. “See You” has a slight knottier but lyrical piano and the trickier rhythm of Rickie Lee Jones. Again and again Emma’s vocal is an absolute joy to listen to. “See You” marries a brooding sublime, but emotional vocal with a beautiful piano that mixes Radiohead minimalism and Esbjörn Svensson jazz. “Come Back” has those swooping virtuosic flourishes with a low Olivia Chaney folkiness that flies gospel like over Aaron Park’s wonderful piano part. “Before You Go Away” with a gently strummed guitar and achingly beautiful vocal delivers a killer County classic at the end, again the soundscape of the sound builds gently and beautifully through the song. These last two songs are close to perfect in construction and delivery, with the rest of the album snapping at their heals. This is going to be in my top ten of the year unless I am very much mistaken. At 31 ½ minutes, this like many classic albums is all beautifully recorded killer with absolutely no filler.

Choice Track: “Two Hours” (NSV 487)