Taste is a hard quality to judge, as it can be a very subjective issue. However, when it comes to music, there are some elements that are almost universally considered to be tasteful, such as a nice vocal harmony on a chorus, or a great band arrangement that supports a song without being a distraction. Many artists have a difficult time putting a record together, either from lack of experience or direction, or from being fed the wrong information by a producer (which happens all too often, especially with new artists). What may have started off as a bunch of great songs turns into a mess of an album that is soon to be forgotten by the oversaturated, music-loving population. Luckily, the artist in question for this review, Emma Elena Grace seems to have been in the perfect mindset when recording her debut album This Side Of The Room. It is a remarkably strong effort from a very talented singer and songwriter.
Grace explorers the pitfalls of love and lack thereof in this collection of heavy, beautifully crafted acoustic guitar pop songs. Her voice is gentle, yet still convincing in it’s sincerity. There is a storyteller quality to Grace’s vocal style that really sucks you into the songs and makes the listener feel what is being conveyed through the music. “Breakdown” is a great opening track, with a nice hook in the chorus that isn’t over done. “Bricks of Blue” is a heartbreaking tale of not being able to connect with a lover, sung over a slow tempo of brushed snares, violin, and soft piano. It is a standout song amidst an already strong set.
That is very much the style of the album: soft vocals delivering touching lyrics, backed by nice instrumentation, with some occasional vocal harmonies that are never overly present. Much credit is due to Grace herself, who wrote all the music and lyrics, as well as Brandon Pero who produced the record with her. This Side Of The Room would fit nicely in anyone’s playlist, perhaps squeezed between some of John Mayers’ later offerings or even Holy Williams’ latest record The Highway.
Although Grace’s debut album is a standout effort from a debut artist, there are still some moments where her inexperience comes to light. It would have been nice to hear her try a different approach to some of her vocals, as they are all basically in the exact same range and delivery on every song. I say this because she is such a gifted singer that one can’t help but want more grit and angst from her singing. Especially considering the lyrical themes, I found it all to be a little too nice across the board. The same goes for the music’s structure; the songs don’t ever shift from where they start, and there aren’t any surprises or breaks in the music. These are minor points though, and I would be hard pressed to fault the album much more than that.
I was even expecting it to decrease in quality towards the end, but to my surprise, the last two numbers “Where Love Goes” and “Here’s To You” were some of the highlights on the record.
Emma Elena Grace has really made a statement for herself with the release of This Side Of The Room. With her beautiful voice and exceptionally strong songwriting, this is a great folk-pop record from an artist I cannot wait to hear more from.
Written by Ben Massicotte
*edited by Kate Erickson