Emm Gryner- The Summer of High Hopes (Dead Daisy)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. Girls Are Murder
2. Merlot
3. All-Time Low
4. Almighty Love
5. Blackwinged Bird
6. Black-Eyed Blue Sky
7. Queen of The Boys
8. Star/Crossed
9. See The Sea
10. Sunshine
11. Sweet Destroyer

"I saw a movie in your eyes, a long goodbye"

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I believe Emm Gryner is the single greatest (virtually) unknown songwriter in music today.  The Summer of High Hopes- her 8th, or 11th, or 12th release depending on how you count- is as solid and compelling a release as you will hear this year. Summer is a gauntlet of emotional complexity delicately arranged to make it appear simple.  It's a sweet candy that you roll on your tongue until its bitterness reveals itself.

The opening track, Girls Are Murder, is a perfect example of the acid-laced chocolate Emm is dishing up here.  Its catchy, upbeat tune- perfect for a radio single- masks mantras like "this won't last, but the heartache will" and "girls are murder, every curve." So you find yourself humming and tapping your toes until you realize what it is you're singing along to.  It's a perfect tone-setter for this disc, with great energy and hooks, and it marks the study of contrasts by which The Summer of High Hopes is grounded in.

All-Time Low is probably the most instantly accessible track on High Hopes.  Again, musically it is upbeat and infectious, while masking, well, it is called All-Time Low.  Gryner's lyrics have been honed to a fine edge here: "My tortured wonder, with the Great Lakes in your eyes, they've stormed the slumber, God loads a gun." The slow burning acoustic Almighty Love follows, and anchors the Summer Of High Hopes.  If there is any track that captures the soul of this disc, it's in here.  When Gryner croons "this almighty love, sometimes it seems enough, but baby baby it's all wrong," she is not only connecting every track on this unintended concept album, but also connecting to a universal experience.

Blackwinged Bird is a haunting and solitary resignation.  "Now we're paper dolls all aflame, in houses that all look the same.  Rows of regret, an arson for a wilderness."  Set to a simple piano and violin, Gryner sings from a timeless place, in a rubble of lost hope.  See the Sea also makes no bones about it.  "It hurts like fuck, I don't know why, the thought of you, should blow my mind."  Simple and direct, and just over two minutes long. Sunshine puts the paper mache mask back on, with its toe-tapping rhythms and driving energy.  "Suffer's all I do, through the jealous summer moon." If her lyrics are any indication, Emm has been twisting herself through difficult relationships for quite some time now.

Summer of High Hopes may or may not be Emm's her best work, but it's up there.  I feel that it is her most cohesive work, and her most mature. It arrives as the work of an artist who has honed her craft.  The raw emotion of her earlier efforts has now been gracefully folded inside a subtlety.  Like another fine Canadian export, Leonard Cohen, she is able to convey intricacy in very cogent and human terms.  If you think I'm going too far with this comparison, take a moment to check out some of the lyrics. "The summer of high hopes, brought tears of red merlot," "If it would bring you to me, I'd kill the ghost of your enemy," and "The moon has overdosed on nighttime..." But really you could pick lines from any track.

On the third or fourth listen I remember getting to the final track, Sweet Destroyer, as it shimmered to silence and thinking to myself- is this really over, is there really not one weakness here?  No filler? Every track contributes in some notable way to the greater whole and leaves the listener holding some long lost art form, an actual album of music instead of a collection of songs.  It is a salient work of rare economy and consistency.

The Summer of High Hopes is something of an odd masterpiece.  On one level, it details in painstaking relief, the toll that lost or unrequited love can take on a person.  But somehow, without offering any hope whatsoever (at least lyrically), the album as a whole is not a downer, and carries within it a spirit that belies its content.  Like the relationships it eulogizes, The Summer Of High Hopes is a work of contrasts and flux.

In the current issue of Q Magazine (Nov.06) Bono was asked for five songs he wished he had written in the last 20 years.  Among Dylan, Oasis, Gavin Friday and Massive Attack was Gryner’s Almighty Love, the only track released in the last decade.  99% of the people reading that piece are likely to ask Emm who?  I may not be Bono, but I stand by my statement- Emm Gryner is the best thing you've never heard.

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