Album review

Emma Holland : Play On

Emma Holland : Play OnFeaturing the catchy new single From Now On, Emma Holland breaks onto the female singer-songwriter scene with her debut album Play On. The general feel is instantly accessible, combining a mixture of reflective lyrics and memorable melodies with a good variety of styles and some interesting original touches.
    Comparisons with other female artists are inevitable, but in this case are mostly favorable: The opening verse of Lately has tones of Sarah McLachlan, before the reggae beat takes the song in an unexpected but enjoyable direction. There are also shades of Madonna, Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morrisette at various points, as well as strong influences from the 80s and early 90s which all work well to produce an interesting blend of 'old school' with contemporary mixing and distinctive vocals.

Stones is a great example of the reflective vibe of many of her songs, whilst Something For The Weekend is a dance based track which vibrates with Ibiza influence and shows off her lighter side. However, a few tracks such as If I Fall and Who Said It Would Be Easy slip into a generic 'pop' mould, feeling lacklustre and over-familiar, despite being generally likeable.
    Like many debut albums the subject matter is mostly personal and often autobiographical, giving songs like Fear Of Flying and You Taught Me a sense of intimacy and vulnerability. For a first album there is a strong lyrical presence, which is only set to improve with experience.
    Comparisons with Dido are obvious on tracks such as Something Blue, but Emma Holland seems able to hold her own creatively, and appears confident in a range of genres.

This album is a bit of a mixed bag, and despite lacking a definitive, dominating style, there's enough creativity and variation to keep most listeners humming away happily. It will be interesting to see what direction she takes from here, but I've no doubt it will be followed with success, as she clearly has sufficient talent to take her where she wants to go.
    And just when you think you've got her sussed, you reach the last track, Home, which is a quiet, acoustic gem of a song, reminiscent of Norah Jones, and a wonderful way to round off a diverse and confident debut album.

:: Tom West

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