Emily Millard

By Heron & By Season

BY Peter EllmanPublished Oct 5, 2016

Twenty-five seconds into "Flashlight," Emily Millard's voice performs a subtle flourish that piques the ear; a softly swelling synth under her piano playing adds timbral depth; and when the upright bass boldly enters with a countermelody, one can't help but feel that they're in for something special.
Several mentorship experiences contributed to Millard's latest album, By Heron & By Season, among them vocal lessons with Sidsel Endresen, a poetry workshop with West Coast poet Jan Zwicky and a sensitive production ear courtesy of Sandro Perri. Together, and combined with Millard's retreat to a remote island off the coast of B.C. for her writing process, they make for a gorgeous listen. While communing with nature for artistic inspiration is a somewhat cliché origin story, leaving the chaos of city life allowed Millard to dig more deeply into her own psyche and memory.
A particularly visceral example of this inward journey, both musically and lyrically, is "Promise of Spring." Driven by a shaker, quivering violin and moody piano, the first line is appropriately mysterious: "I have been afraid of the truth," she intones. Later, a specifically personal revelation is still shrouded in captivating ambiguity: "I was 26 when the panic seized me."
"Toxic Town" boasts a catchy chorus and lyrics assisted by a 'tone-painting' violin part that rises questioningly after the line, "How can you plant a seed?" and then whinnies after the title phrase. It's a subtle but effective means of complementing the vocal melody and enhancing the lyrical content.
The mysteriously personal poetry and quirky avant-folk arrangements should appeal to fans of Julia Holter or Joanna Newsom, but Millard's complex sonic world is all her own. We are lucky to take part in the trip.

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