Vancouver Electro-Pop Artist Emily Rowed Releases Hypnotic New Album
Some years mean more than others. For Vancouver-based artist Emily Rowed, the year that stirred her and moved her and shook her up inspired her new EP, APRIL, a half-hour long confessional that finds Emily reflecting — raw and often painfully — on the twelve months that stretched between two important Aprils. The result is a stunning collection of dreamy, subtle electro-pop ballads that highlight Emily’s far-reaching talents.
The thing about APRIL is that it is virtually seamless — there are ten gentle songs on the album but they morph one into the other, all born out of a misty composition that has the chameleon ability to adjust and adapt to whatever comes next, so that the whole record feels like one long winding song. APRIL’s humble beginnings are on “Two Feet,” our first introduction to Emily’s hypnotic vocals. She has a haunting lilt, barely above a whisper, and devoid of any wild intonations, so it’s really the thread that remains pulled taut throughout the whole record. The actual arrangement of the piece is just as eerie — there’s nothing aggressive about it, because it’s mostly a foggy electronic composition, but there’s an edge or an anxiety to it too before merging smoothly into “Human,” already one of the standouts on APRIL. Mimicking the slow percussive punches and dreamy distant synths of its predecessor, it blooms into an emotive dark-pop piece. On “Standing Still,” Emily delivers a remarkable effort comprised of jarring piano notes, the shimmer and flutter of quick percussion, and a dizzying tug-of-war between minimalism and controlled chaos.
“Hey Love” is a sweet love song that thrums with a fast-paced dance beat pulsing far beneath Emily’s pretty vocals — it’s another loose, lush track that finds each part of her talent utilized in timid ways. On the creeping, resounding “Watercolors,” Emily is at her most honest as she coolly sings about the kind of love that comes out of nowhere and knocks the wind out of you. Halfway through APRIL finds “Pinball,” one of the more uptempo tracks off the record, clinking along with smashes of electro beats unfolding among a more robust dance arrangement than we’ve heard before, though it’s ultimately still the dreamy, floating tone that’s become Emily’s signature. On “Glowing In The Dark,” she delivers a bittersweet piano-led track that spotlights the soulful bit of her voice.
Another standout, “Oh My God” rings with a new layer of deep synth strikes that suggest a frenzy to come, but really the song travels a winding road of icy echoes, less than three minutes that manages to feel so much longer due to its spooky treatment of barely-there repeat rhythms. On “My Friend,” we get a similar motif — soft and quiet, stripped-back to just acoustic strums and percussive detail in the distance, it operates as a mere echo as Emily sings an ode to a friend. APRIL ends with “Stardust,” a gorgeous conclusion because it’s mostly unexpected. Yes, it’s still led by Emily’s breathy voice and a relatively relaxed arrangement, but when she sings “remember what you’re made of / rhythm and stardust,” the song expands into a stunning soundscape of shimmers and smashes and hums and harmonies.
APRIL is one woman’s exploration of one single year of her life. Because of this, it’s important. It’s lovely and unbearably lush, but it’s not just a stirring sonic experience for us, it’s a necessity for Emily Rowed. Her latest effort is exactly what she meant it to be — it reveals all but it’s still shrouded in shadows. Any percentage we see of APRIL is lovelier than we’d have fathomed.
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourself and your music?
Emily Rowed: I grew up on the beach in Vancouver, shoes off, looking for creatures. I've always been curious and felt pretty deeply. My music comes out of that — I'm moved by people, stories, and rare moments.
TMM: What’s the music scene like in Vancouver and how has it influenced your work at all?
ER: There's a bit of everything here — I'm most influenced by my friends' writing and the people I collaborate with.
TMM: Your newest album APRIL is remarkable — can you tell us about the production process behind the record?
ER: APRIL was written from scratch in Toronto. We wrote progressions in the morning and lyrics in the afternoon and did it again the next day. We didn't have anything planned — the story was just coming out. 21 days later, we had APRIL.
TMM: What about the songwriting process? I read that you initially attended acting school but spent most of your time writing songs instead — do you find that your songwriting tends to be more stream-of-consciousness or the craft of intent? It’s probably both, right?
ER: Yes, all the writing is stream-of-consciousness. So many of these songs are about what was happening at the time; we were writing so fast, they are really more like journal entries from that year (April to April).
TMM: What I love about APRIL is its cohesion. Everything fits so seamlessly together and there are even little motifs you can hear if you listen closely. Why do you think this type of sonic consistency is so important to your work?
ER: It was so important to me to have this project sound like a family of songs. In some ways it's a concept album, [since] it's about a year of my life.
TMM: I know it’s evil to ask, but what’s the one song off APRIL that you feel closest to?
ER: “Watercolors” — of all the stories, of all the wins and losses, falling in love is the craziest of all.
TMM: What do you want to say with this album? You’ve said it all with the music — but is there a specific kind of comfort you’re hoping your listeners will take away from this collection?
ER: I hope that listeners feel comfortable in paying attention to their own calling, for the first time I really followed my intuition, it lead to the craziest, best year of my life so far.
TMM: Who are three musicians you think the world needs to hear?
ER: Donna Missal, Belle Game, DRAMA
TMM: What has been your most memorable music moment so far?
ER: I thought it was a pretty funny moment when Milky Chance opened for me in a living room in Vancouver!
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Emily Rowed?
Emily Rowed: I'm playing some shows! The release party is April 25th at The Fox — then it's festival season!