Album review: Emma Davis 'Demons'
Image: Nick McKinlay
London-born, Sydney based singer-songwriter Emma Davis hasn’t released an album since 2010. Struggling to write music and “feeling less and less like a musician,” Davis had to “refigure out how to write music.” The end result, Demons, released August 3, is proof Davis has well and truly rediscovered how to write music and is a collection of songs more than worth waiting the near eight years it took to deliver them.
Davis’s trademark laid back, acoustic, folk tinged sound from her self-titled debut album is still present but on Demons, the folk is joined by elements of synth, which not only keeps her sound fresh but adds an extra, intriguing sonic level to her sublime melodies and wispy, almost ethereal vocals. This multi-layering is at its best on tracks like the heart breaking paean to lost love ‘Hardest Thing’, which starts off with a just a keyboard to complement Davis’s vocals before gradually introducing a crackly backbeat, a chanting backing vocal and a guitar. And while perky single ‘So It Is’ also details a broken love affair, it positively swings along, again with a chanting backing vocal, in a way we haven’t heard from Davis before and even features a glorious middle eight more usually seen on a sweaty dance floor at 2am than on an Emma Davis record.
As well as a platform for Davis to explore a new musical landscape, Demons is also a deeply personal album. Lost love and heartache are common themes, with Davis baring her soul on tracks such as ‘Try To Love Me’ and ‘Stand Tall’, while her struggles with song writing and self-doubt also inspire a number of tracks. On opening track ‘Getting Better’ Davis questions whether things will ever get better, singing “I thought that I was getting better/The older I become/I thought my mind was getting clearer”, while the blissed out, calm beats of ‘Too Long’ hide a less than calm heart: “With a mind so full of holes/And doubts coming out my throat/I’ve been away too long.”
The lyrical content is at times raw, but the music is never less than beautiful and in perhaps a fitting conclusion the album closes with the single ‘Danger In Me’. Written at the height of Australia’s same sex marriage debate in late 2017 – “I will never see/What the danger is in me/Loving who I want to love” - the song explores the themes of hurt and confusion common to the rest of the album, but it also carries such a powerful message of hope that the listener is left feeling that while there may have been some rough patches along the way, everything is okay in the world of Emma Davis. Let’s just hope it isn’t another eight years before more new music emerges from her brilliant mind.