Emily Howard is a St Louis based singer/songwriter. This is her debut EP, which has already seen her gaining a lot of critical acclaim. The video for opener “Love Sleeps” attracted 2000 hits in 24 hours on Youtube (see below). No small accolade for an artist who seems to have appeared out of nowhere; so what’s all the fuss about? Well, Wind Me Up is an accomplished and mature debut, highlighting an amazingly successful blending of pop and rock that many more established artists fail dismally to achieve.
“Love Sleeps” starts with sparse instrumentation; a skittering drum pattern and hand claps; acting as a showcase for Howard’s voice, which is lilting and precise with each word perfectly placed and articulated. Howard’s phrasing and immaculate delivery, mixed with the melodic pop hook of the music, is reminiscent here of Tegan and Sara, despite the more romantic nature of the lyrics. At around the two minute mark the song explodes into the chorus with a cacophony of sound; pounding drums and whirling guitars: ‘They say all that’s black and white can’t be read, but nothing’s ever written when it’s left unsaid’, before it descends quickly back to the quieter, melancholic verse. The chorus comes crashing back around 2:45, pulling what is for the most part a quiet and understated song about lost love into a passionate, triumphant ending. The comparisons to some of Regina Spektor’s quirky love songs, particularly “Fidelity”, are easy to make; the hit from the New York based Spektor is similarly quiet and heartbreaking at the beginning, with a feeling of renewed strength and resolution towards the end. Whilst the comparison can be made (as much as she could be compared to any other female singer/songwriter who plays guitar and piano), I think the sound on this EP is uniquely Howard’s own, imbued with a passion that only comes when performing deeply personal songs.
“Paper Heart” kicks off with an almost Emilie Autumn-esque electronic riff, which sounds oddly like a harpsichord, playing arpeggios in the background, which is soon joined with choppier guitar sounds. There’s a nice blend of electronic elements, rock and very catchy pop here, which is probably where the comparisons to KT Tunstall come in. In actuality I think Howard’s sound is much fresher and original than Tunstall’s, which is heavily derivative (particularly on Eye to the Telescope) of Joni Mitchell style folksiness. While there is a lot to recommend this, and Tunstall certainly has a gorgeous voice, there is something a lot more inventive to what Howard is doing, which is commendable.
Closing track “I Don’t Care” again opens with descending arpeggiated piano and Howard’s sparse voice floating over the top. This builds quickly to a stompy, rockier number with pounding drum beats and a more defiant pop/rock tone reminiscent of some of the more sentimental songs from such goliaths of the genre as Garbage and No Doubt. “I Don’t Care” acts as the perfect closer to this EP; with three songs seemingly about dealing with heart break and betrayal in love, moving from the sadness and inability to let go of “Love Sleeps”, to a more rebellious turning away from a bad situation in this closing track.
Overall, an interesting, fresh debut from an undoubtedly talented artist blending rock and pop effortlessly. Whilst she’s not covering new ground with the lyrical content of the songs, they are delivered with a passion that displays Howard’s personal connection and devotion to perfectly crafting each one. I hope to see a lot more from this artist in the future.