Emma Davis – Demons
‘I thought that I was getting better / The older I become’, Sydney artist Emma Davis sings in the first line of ‘Getting Better’, the opening track from her second album Demons.
‘I thought my mind was getting clearer, I was figuring out how to be strong’.
It’s a striking first verse that shows us precisely where Davis’ mind was at when writing these ten songs.
This is a deeply emotional album. A raw album. An album that sees Davis lay her heart on the line. ‘Why won’t you try to love me?’ she sings in ‘Try To Love Me’, ‘I don’t think you know how cruel you can be’.
Her directness is endearing. The starkness of her lyrics and the sweetness of her melodies and instrumental arrangements make her songs immediately easily approachable.
The sweet rolling folk of ‘Too Long’ and ‘Stand Tall’, the pulsing beauty of ‘Reversing Fun’ and ‘Hardest Thing’ and the simple elegance of ‘Danger In Me’ are just a sample of examples that will immediately jump out at fans, new and old alike.
While every song is direct and sincere, Davis’ songs aren’t especially morose. There’s a heart-warming undercurrent of positivity and optimism on so many of them.
‘You have a kindness that sits deep within your bones’, she sings in ‘Stand Tall’, the most charming ode to lost love you’ll hear all year. ‘I am lucky to have all that I do, but I’ve never known the kind of love you seem to have between you’.
‘So It Is’ brings a little levity by way of semi-chirpy vocals, chiming glockenspiel and a distinctly clappable beat.
The title track, ‘Demons’ – perhaps the most foreboding title on the whole record – ends up being one of the sweetest tales that Davis shares here, a song so full of hope that it could be an effective force for good.
Musically, it’s a rich and nourishing piece of work. Its sounds are all completely exquisite and, while there are a lot of them, they’re so impeccably layered that each arrangement sounds squeaky clean.
Greg Walker (Machine Translations) is a deft hand when it comes to producing records that sound effortlessly beautiful, and he brings out the best in Davis’ work here. He had great tools to work with, Davis’ songwriting and musicianship are clearly well-honed, and her approach to music is clearly adventurous and exploratory in a similar way to Walker’s.
The horns in songs like ‘Getting Better’, ‘Best Of Times’ and ‘Demons’ offer such unexpected but very welcome bursts of colour. The synths, always one of Davis’ strong points, linger around the edges of these songs, subtly enriching them rather than taking up too much space.
Demons is a work of complete honesty, which is its greatest triumph. But the beautiful musical treatment that accompanies these songs lifts it to a whole new level. Emma Davis has made a record that undeniably illustrates her life and experience right now.