Emily Gold’s Recluse could easily end up album of the year with the proper promotion. The strong material waves a proud middle-finger at genre stereotypes and current musical clichés. At its core, Recluse is an album that’s like a soundtrack to a shaky, introspective state of mind or a surrealistic art-film full of visceral imagery. Those looking for mountainous peaks and valleys in terms of structure and composition might be disappointed, yet music aficionados that savor a slow-burn with a cool hand will gladly eat this up for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s not quite perfect, as a few of the songs fall victim to their own tropes and formulas, but these missteps are minor in the grand scheme of things.
Though British born and California-raised; Emily Gold avoids the “starlet” syndrome that seems to be a problem with up and coming female performers. That’s not picking on the sex, it’s just the truth as I see it. Emily’s lyrics don’t shy away from her harder-edged and she isn’t afraid to paint portraits of pseudo-mental violence with her sometimes expletive-laden phrasings. The cussing isn’t overdone but used when trying to prove the most extreme points of lost love and life gone wrong.
Recluse really establishes a rhythm and groove from the outset; a frame of mind and a feeling, not so much a “rock n’ roll groove.” Gold delivers the bleak “Drowning” with an utter lack of sentimentality and the music offers glimmers of hope before swallowing them up in creepily woven guitar melodies, ambient rhythmic noises and keyboards. My Bloody Valentine could certainly be an influence here and wields equal sway over the heavier crunch of the title track. “Recluse” gives the guitars a chance to reach full blast and the drumming opens up into more tangible patterns alongside dense bass lines. This is mood music, to say the least, and has a manic persona throughout as heard on the irritated, guitar heavy pluck of “Cyanide Lollipop” where Gold reckons back to a time where L7 and Babes in Toyland dominated the tougher side of female rock.
The album perks up with a pair of poppier cuts including “Not From Here” and the absolutely glitzy “Out of Touch”, a track so close to being radio-friendly fare it’s kind of surprising. Still, the lyrics keep a finger on the pulse of loss and the layers upon layers of throbbing auxiliary instrumentation lends a raw churn to the melodic uplift. “Shadow” brings the atmosphere back down to earth; the brief glimpse of heaven now a purgatory of blustery blues backed by both hip-hop and symphonic ballast, which gives this subdued track many varied personalities. In line with “Shadow,” both “Dizzy (Let Go)” and “Intangible” dwell on the abandoned side of town where Gold sings soul like an experience busker watched by everyone that passes by and waiting discovery. Rock pyrotechnics spill out in all direction during the guitar-smattered offerings “Retrofitting” and “For the Night,” showing that Emily and her band are capable of tackling any kind of song that comes their way.
This is simply an astonishing album that demands repeated listens. It would have been interesting to hear a couple more rockers mixed in with the soundscapes, but this is a small issue on a record of plentiful musical treasures. Nobody should pass this up. 9 out of 10 stars.