Released last year, this is the debut solo album by Bristol-based chanteuse Emily Breeze. The super-talented Laura Kidd (formerly known as She Makes War) first alerted me to Emily’s music. (Laura’s recommendations have led me down a number of exciting, eclectic, and, indeed, expensive avenues that I wouldn't normally have discovered.) Everything about this recording oozes quality, with striking cover art that shows Emily posing next to a distinctive red telephone. With Emily on guitar and vocals, Rob Norbury on lead guitar, Andy Sutor on drums, Duncan Fleming on keyboards, Graham Dalzell on bass and producer Stew Jackson on pedal steel guitar and synths, the album was recorded at the legendary Rockfield Studios. This powerful record, anthemic on certain songs, comes across as the dark soundtrack to a smoky bar, where the lost, lonely, and trapped (in the nine-to-five, the mundanity of modern life, or past glories) go to escape themselves. The album has a noir songwriting take on observational subjects, on tracks such as Call in Sick Today, Work, or the absolutely brilliant Ego Death. Emily's eye for a sharp lyric is matched perfectly by her melodic talent, tackling conventional topics and subverting them. Nestled in between New Flesh Old Bones and Heaven’s Gate is a song called Raining in My Heart. Is this the same Buddy Holly track written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant with which we’re all familiar? Yes it is, and it fits perfectly here in the atmospheric, cinematic soundscape created by Stew Jackson. Emily’s low, soulful vocals takes this classic in a totally different direction and makes it her own, and the listener imagines the patrons of our cellar bar arrested mid-conversation as the spotlight shines on Emily crooning this standard. Ego Death had me hooked from the beginning, with its languid beat, sparse piano work and Emily’s spoken word vocals, and it just gets better as it goes on, adding shimmering synth to the mix. This sublime piece of work, with superb production values and a band on top form, is reminiscent of This is Hardcore-era Pulp in its combination of darkness and the mundane. The Book of Longings is a slow, emotive torch song, heightened by Emily's beautiful voice and the marvellous guitar playing.
Here is a striking and unique album from a singular talent, its languid charm and dark vibes complementing each other perfectly.
She Makes War And Peace
Laura Kidd, Bristol-based multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, announced in December 2019 that she was ending her She Makes War project after ten years, five original albums, several official live bootlegs and her Supersub Club. I’ve followed Laura’s career for a long time, after being introduced to her work by Matt Stevens of The Fierce and the Dead, and I’ve seen many of her solo and full band shows and been to her last two album launches. This, her fifth and final She Makes War album, is an eight-track solo recording of music from the entire SMW history, as voted for by fans on her Facebook page. The result is a goodbye and thank you that is a real best-of, recorded acoustically and intimately in Laura's home studio. Songs include the brilliant Scared to Capsize, concert favourite Paper Thin, and probably the definitive version of Delete, one of her finest tracks, with its resonant lyrics. Dear Heart, from her last album Brace for Impact, gets a beautifully sensitive rendition here.
She Makes War has been an extraordinary musical journey over the last nine years, with airplay on Radio 6 and sell-outs at venues like the Thekla or the Louisiana based purely on word of mouth, with no backing from a label. This success is a testament to Laura's talent as well as to the hard yards that she's put in over the years. And Peace is the fitting coda to the SMW years. I for one cannot wait to see what Laura does next — but in the meantime, she has given us this lovely collection to enjoy.--James R. Turner