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Emelie and Ogden - 10,000

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 11 / 1 / 2016

Emelie and Ogden - 10,000
Label: Secret City Records
Format: CD


Excellent debut album from Montreal-based singer-songwriter Emilie Kahn who shares billing with her harp Ogden

Having gained attention for her reworking of Taylor Swift’s ‘Style’ (even attracting support from Swift herself), Emilie Kahn released her debut album during the latter part of 2015. The Ogden in Kahn’s stage name is her harp, so, although she is no doubt sick of hearing it, the comparisons to Joanna Newsom are unavoidable. This proves to be unfair as the album unfolds, but having folky influences, being young and featuring the harp as the main instrument those comparisons are understandable. While Newsom’s voice is something of an acquired taste and was something of a shock when her debut came along, the same cannot be said of the comforting sound that envelops the listener as soon as Emilie sings on the opening track, ‘Blame’. The first sounds that emerge on ’10 000’ evoke images of fairies dancing at the bottom of a garden, and not for the first time there’s a feeling that you have a hold on where Emilie is coming from, only for it to be crushed a minute or two later. Vocally there are shades of Harriet Wheeler in Emilie’s delivery which, coupled with the atmosphere conjured up by the arrangements on ’10 000’, shifts the album from being merely good to great. Albums such as ’10 000’ where the artist has taken an unusual path can, despite being on the peripheral of a number of genres rather than sitting firmly in one and having other artists sharing a similar vision, sometimes be a demanding listen. They are ultimately rewarding maybe but time consuming before finally allowing the listener in. ’10 000’ is one of those rare albums where the artist has been true to their vision yet still made an album that is totally accessible and appealing even on the first play. The Montreal-based singer-songwriter does demand the listener’s attention though. ’10 000’ is not the type of album that you can appreciate while it is playing away in the background. The instrumentation, which at times can be quite stark yet still sounding strangely complete, is mesmerising; apart from Ogden the harp, cello and banjo are used effectively throughout along with the usual bass, guitar and drums and some fine synth touches here and there. The use of the harp throws a celestial blanket over the whole album, and on tracks such as ‘White Lies’ where Emilie pushes herself vocally and the backing can only be described as ethereal the result is truly breathtaking. It’s on songs like this that the listener starts to feel that Emilie Kahn, despite those preconceived thoughts when it comes to a girl with a harp, really is in a field of her own. There are moments that don’t match the highs afforded by the aforementioned song; while it would be unfair to say that the short ‘Nothing New’ is unappealing the brevity of the song (seconds over a minute) obviously limits the song from really going anywhere. The opening lines “I’ve got nothing new to offer you” are certainly not relevant to ’10 000’ and, while leaving the listener wanting more is no bad thing, the song, due to not developing like the others, disrupts the flow of the album slightly. Maybe that’s nitpicking, maybe in time it will make more sense, but ’10 000’ is an album that, while dipping in and out of it might work for a few, really needs to be listened to as a whole in one sitting. ‘Babel’, which follows on from ‘Nothing New’, once again shows what an unique talent Emilie Kahn is. With the by now expected odd instrumentation and with unexpected percussion adding yet another dimension to the song, Emilie unveils one of her prettiest songs which sounds like nothing the listener has heard before. ‘Long Gone’ is another track where the, at times, sparse instrumentation paints such a full picture, and yet another example of a song that is so instantly appealing and pretty it doesn’t strike until it’s over that again there’s nothing that sounds remotely similar on this earth. ’10 000’ is an album that will make you feel guilty for having those initial thoughts that Emilie Kahn was just extending the ideas of another artist who plays the same instrument. It’s not the case. Emilie is a unique talent, an artist who is pushing boundaries yet still making her music accessible. Her only problem is how to follow such a strong debut as ’10 000’.

Track Listing:-
1 Blame
2 Ten Thousand
3 Closer
4 White Lies
5 Nothing New
6 Babel
7 Long Gone
8 Go Home
9 What Happened
10 Hold Me Down
11 Dream

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