Emerson Leif’s Debut Project, Bad Company is Emotionally Magnificent
Evan Dale // Mar 17, 2020
For those who have been following closely, the release of experimentally soulful Emerson Leif’s debut EP has been a few long years filled with intermittent works of creative, mellow genius in the making. For those who haven’t been, there’s still a good chance that moments of introspection have been brought on by the soothing auditory aesthetic of his own singles, or those of friend and collaborator Golden Vessel, for whom he often lends his voice. You see, even through the minimalist canon with which he’s begun his career, the four singles that paved the way for Bad Company were nothing short of the antithesis to the EP’s title for those who listen with an emotionally open expanse.
The debut of his sound came by way of Golden Vessel’s 2017 Tell The Girl which introduced a voice neither soul nor bedroom pop, but something ultimately of his own making though surely built on a pillar between the two. His vocalism is far from perfection – relatable in its warm, cutting tone, hints of a strong accent, and painfully relatable emotion. Like many of history’s great vocalists, what makes him so great is that he is so different. There isn’t a singer of the modern cloth or the past whose voice is easily comparable to Emerson Leif.
Bad Company is his opening statement – his proper introduction – to the range of that unique sound.
Like any artist, Emerson Leif seems foremost painfully driven by love, and its accompanying highs and lows. Lyrically and ultimately thematically, the titles of his tracks alone – Wake up with You, Next2, Bad Company – are telling of a young artist – a young human – propelled forward and often tortured by steps and missteps towards finding and holding on to love. And with a voice as uniquely driven by nouns best placed in the wake of soaring and aching, his depictions of love and loss are not only gravitational and believable, but ultimately and indisputably made genuine.
Bad Company’s titular offering is a principal example of that emotional relatability. Though the entirety of the project aligns with Emerson Leif’s underlying passion, Bad Company is seemingly its most melancholy, pushing his sound in an opposing heading than the warm, golden-hour sort of offerings that accompany singles like Wake up With You and Next2. However, built on a similar understated keystroke and watery guitar foundation as the rest of his tracks – the aesthetic that ties his sound most closely to that of Golden Vessel, of Still Woozy, of Billy Lemos – that which often leaves him labeled a product of the bedroom pop movement – is what proves the raw gamut of his vocalism. He’s able to make the same beat sound bubbly and warm or downtrodden and despondent with nothing more than the weapon that is his unique voice.
In accompaniment of Bad Company as well as the EP’s leading singles, Wake up with You and Next2, two additional tracks find their way into the EP’s soundscape. His first real opportunity at a short release given its place as Bad Company’s opener, Late is a remarkable novella introducing the greater work to follow. What its brevity of course lacks in length, it makes up for in a minimalist pedestal for Emerson Leif to put on full exhibition the power of his voice. On the other end of Bad Company’s spectrum, Rearview closes out the EP as another emotion ridden, though more emotionally middle-grounded delivery. It’s hard to tell what Emerson Leif is feeling or attempting to make his listeners feel with a track that floats – lyrically and aesthetically – over and back a line of emotional centeredness. Instead, perhaps, the track feels most custom fitting to whatever emotion any given listener is feeling at any given time. Rearview, above all its accompanying tracks, is the one sure to mean the most, and the most unpredictably thematic, to its audience.
I think about you more than I should, and I got it real bad. I got it real bad.
And I play it all down like I know I would too, and I got you on my mind.
The closing stanza of the greater poem that is Bad Company leaves such room for interpretation that upon its closure, the overwhelming waves of emotion all non-sociopathic listeners undergo throughout its course is left up for grabs, able to shift and remold its meaning and form based on the state of its audience. In that fluid sort of state exists its genius – the same genius that has attached itself to all of Emerson Leif’s work to this point. Impressively enough, his debut project impresses in just the same way, with just the same sort of brevity that keeps us all patiently waiting, bathed in emotion for more.