I’m sort of a Johnny-come-lately to Caro Emerald; it’s a month or less since I discovered her on a BBC Radio 2 live performance late one evening. Fortuitous though, as I get the benefit of getting a lot of her latest album and on Monday of this week her new album, The Shocking Miss Emerald was released. This, the second studio album by the Dutch singer does not herald a huge shift or change in direction; she sounds much as I expected her to, the style is not starkly different. A short intro and then thirteen songs – mostly of the tempo and feel you’d expect of her. So why, I ask myself is this album so damn good?
So much in life is about the little things that you do often, the things you repeat and perfect. The big bang in say, work, fitness or romance never leave a legacy of greatness – they might occasionally be remembered but they don’t endure – this album though, will endure.
Every element is improved upon. She sounds both smokier and sharper at times, the lyrics moved up a notch and the way the album is structured is better, more strategic as an album. This isn’t just about a collection of potential singles, but about a listening experience. Sure, you’ll pop on track 3 on the way to the supermarket but when you’re back it’s one you play from top to bottom, and it brings you on a clever journey of moods.
One her album, Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor Caro Emerald’s vocal skill and charm moved you through the few unexceptional tracks, but there aren’t many songs on this new album that need that. Track three, Coming Back As A Man (that would be a travesty) is the first ‘big song’ on the album, and from there on you’re immersed. Tangled Up and Pack Up The Louie are similar – similarly good. Black Valentine, with its opening line, ‘Who Needs A Captain On A Love Ship’ is cheekily mournful. Liquid Lunch is fun, and Paris well, it is spring.
Track eight, I Belong To You requires a special mention. A wonderful track; Miss Emerald is perfect, good lyrics with a nod to My Way of Life, and the arrangement by Schreurs and Jules Buckley is breath-taking, and probably needed the Abbey Road environment. This track could be a Bond theme, and I mean that in an Adele-Grammy Winning-hair raising-rooting-for-the-hero sort of way. Play this. Play it again. You’ll see what I mean.
It’s easy to love the aesthetics of Caro Emerald generally – there’s a style and elegance about her that’s thankfully being popularised by our recession led desire for a better time, with retro values and products. Nostalgia works at times like this. Vinyl was the only physical music format that grew last year.
With this new album Caro Emerald’s aesthetics even extends to the physical CD itself. It’s getting harder to sell CDs, as opposed to downloads, but I love a CD. I also like a nice piece of vinyl, but I still buy CDs mostly. I can rip them to iTunes, I can stick them in the car, I can loan one to a friend, I can swap them. How much of that is legal I’m unsure – but the fact that I can do all those things keep me buying CDs. The music industry however is finding it harder to sell CDs though; they are becoming commodity products, what the business call a ‘Quarter 4’ product, selling as gifts in December. But occasionally you see a CD like this one. Great design, a little pocket for the lyrics booklet, an insert with tour dates and the CD itself looks like a lovely old vinyl 78.
Like I said, the sum of the parts matter, and this album adds up.
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