Emily Sparks
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Emily Sparks

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"Emily Sparks-What Could Not Be Buried"

The whimsical drawings on the cover of Emily Sparks' album made me think her music will be syrupy sweet pop. I'm completely surprised that what hits my ears is a stripped down amalgam of folk, country, and only a little bit of pop featuring Emily and her guitar. Emily fits well with the current crop of female singer/songwriters that have been springing up at every turn, but her music isn't overproduced or cheesy. Her singing makes me think of a pixyish woman at an open-mic night, and I imagine coffee shops, bars, and intimate clubs are where Emily's music is best experienced live.

Emily's music fluctuates between poignant, melodic acoustic tunes and a few more upbeat pop numbers. She dabbles in a variety of genres on What Could Not Be Buried, and it seems she gives each song her own soft touch that brings to mind particular images. Whether intended or not, it seems many of the songs on What Could Not Be Buried invoke water in some way - be it the lyrics or the music itself. Emily wears her heart on her sleeve, and it's clear this album was a labor of love. Much of what is here comes off as painful life stories, but I wouldn't say Emily Sparks' music is depressing in any way ... just unpretentiously soul bearing.

The first track, "Just as Well," features beautiful slide guitar and Emily's vocals that combine to give a subtle melancholy air to the song. The percussion makes me think of driving under a bridge in the rain-and how the sound stops and starts as you move in and out of the rain. "I, Aquarius" highlights Emily's gliding acoustic that gently rolls like a river and this water theme is reflected in the lyrics with lines like, "I was born bearing water, so I built a house by the sea and weathered many storms." "Midnight Rendezvous" actually goes a step further and incorporates the sound of actual rain and of crickets chirping. These are just a few examples of how water imagery is used on this album - it's not an overwhelming thing, but it's definitely there.

Overall, Emily Sparks' What Could Not Be Buried is an enjoyable listen. The purely folk tracks far outweigh the few pop-oriented ones, and this is the area that seems strongest for Emily. I'd love to hear her really belt out a tune or two, but her wispy vocals do fit the largely melancholy songs. This album will be of most interest to fans of acoustic folk and maybe even emo, as Emily definitely shows all her cards to her listeners.

- Jennifer Patton, 9/23/2002 - Delusions of Adequacy


"CD review"

A wonderfully realized set of low-key indie folk seamlessly marrying the traditions of Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, and Shannon Wright, Emily Sparks provides one of 2002's greatest breakthrough debuts with What Could Not Be Buried. Although she doesn't appear to have any connections, in either genetic or musical bloodlines, to her namesakes in the Handsome Family, she has arrived at a musical vision that owes debts of inspiration to a few obvious influences but ultimately retains its integrity to emerge as something wholly unique. With an endlessly endearing whisper serving as her vehicle in communicating elegiac narratives on vulnerability and loss, she balances waltzing, moonlit ballads with ethereal pop and stormy indie rock, all with a sense of intimacy, wide-eyed naïveté, and understated cleverness. Still, any delusions that Sparks is a songwriting ingenue are clearly erased by the subtle and sophisticated arrangements that are constructed around intricately hypnotic melodic phrases. And while she does come close to coffee-shop pop a few times, with the gorgeously intertwined acoustic guitar and piano in "Downtown Café" serving as a fine example, she generally smothers her more pristine pop tendencies with electronic creaks and scratches. All in all, it's a set of tunes whose pervasive sense of longing and loneliness makes you want to wrap yourself in a blanket and put the disc on repeat.
-Matt Fink

- All Music Guide


Discography

"What Could Not Be Buried" is a full-length CD on Wishing Tree Records.
"Find Your Own Fire" is a song on a compilation by various artists called "The Amos House Collection III" also on Wishing Tree Records.
"Just As Well" was featured on an episode of the WB show, "One Tree Hill."

Photos

Bio

A thick-skinned, fragile-voiced girl from the North country whose influences include Neil Young, Elliot Smith, Cat Power and Nick Drake. Frontwoman Bridget ‘Jet’ Mullen got the name Emily Sparks from the classic book of fictional epitaphs by Edgar Lee Masters, The Spoon River Anthology. Maybe that's because her music represents the same eerie, straightforward poetry that seems to speak beyond the grave, lamenting in a whisper the loves and lives had and then lost.