By Maria Lubanovic, Copy Editor
[Secret City; 2019]
Key tracks: “Island”, “Aquarium”, “Never Good Enough”
When thinking about the realms and possibilities of pop, indie and even alternative music, the harp is not traditionally considered a regular choice in the ensemble. Fortunately, there is someone out there looking outside of this box, bringing a unique sound to the genre. Formerly known as Emilie and Ogden, Emilie Kahn’s Outro is a gorgeous collection of tracks that masterfully combines the light themes of a harp with hard-hitting synth and breathy tones.
The sheer novelty of the album is enough to impress anyone, but Kahn’s skill at effortlessly blending her instrument into tracks that could have easily been acoustic guitar pushes it over the top. “Three” is a great example of this, with a harp riff that builds into a full chorus with bass, drums and synths matching the harp. It doesn’t disappear but complements Kahn’s vocals of “I’m tired of playing a guessing game.” It gently descends through a bridge with whirling synth, creating an ethereal effect.
Kahn develops elaborate soundscapes, especially in her tracks that feature themes about water and keeping afloat, like “Swimmer”, “Island” and “Aquarium”. The harp is not super modified, so it creates the buoyant feel of water and cascading waves. The addition of voice filtering and altering gives an underwater timbre to “Aquarium”. “Island” has a slightly tropical feel but not so much that it feels corny.
“Will You?” is a track with dark and edgier synth, as Kahn sings about how getting older is changing her and how she fears that nobody will take care of her when she is old. This song features a snap twist into a complex and bubby harp interlude before returning to the deep beaming synth, and both swirl in and out of each other.
Almost as impressive as the instrumentals is Kahn’s ability to use silence as a weapon. “Don’t” has moments where Kahn sings over almost nothing if not for the quietest tones. This makes the swells to the heavy synth chorus hit with massive impact, shaking listeners to their core.
The production of Outro is incredible, letting tracks glimmer and sparkle at the same time as uber-deep bass notes that aren’t just heard; they’re felt. This makes an already impactful album pack more of a punch, leaving listeners with goosebumps. It’s a glorious combination of tracks and mixing that creates a magical experience.
Emilie Kahn is currently on tour. Dates can be found here.