EMA | Past Life Martyred Saints

Souterrain Transmissions (2011)
By RYAN STEWART  |  June 9, 2011
3.5 3.5 Stars

EMA album, 'Past Life Martyred Saints'

This hasn't been a bad year for music, but there haven't been a lot of songs that hit in such a way that there's a physical need to hear them again — immediately. But Past Life Martyred Saints, the solo debut from former Gowns frontlady Erika M. Andersen, conveniently shortened to EMA and pronounced in acronym-form, does have such a song. It's called "Milk Man," and it's sweaty, abrasive, and yet also insanely catchy. If it had been released in 1995 instead of 2011, it'd be a minor radio hit and EMA would get interviewed by Matt Pinfield during the second hour of 120 Minutes. If Past Life consisted of "Milk Man" and half an hour of filler, it'd pass as a satisfactory record. But the rest of it is nearly as great: "Grey Ships" starts as an appealingly dark acoustic dirge before giving way to something even more terrifying. "California" finds Andersen reciting spoken-word poetry — half wearily, half angrily — while the whole state burns or sinks or whatever it's supposed to do one of these days, an occasional organ and blaring guitar signaling its doom. Andersen's tortured and whispery delivery may veer into Kim Gordon territory at times, but the more relevant comparison might be to Dry/Rid of Me–era PJ Harvey, particularly on the gritty and vaguely creepy quieter songs like "Anteroom" and "Marked," the latter of which involves EMA at her most unsettling ("I wish that every time he touched me left a mark"). Past Life Martyred Saints is more focused and confident than the work of many of Andersen's peers. It's likely we've not even heard her best yet. And even if not, this is pretty sweet as is.

EMA | T.T. The Bear's Place, 10 Brookline St, Cambridge | July 21 @ 9pm | $10 | 617.492.2327

  Topics: CD Reviews , Music, Poetry, acoustic,  More more >
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