Time moves slowly in Emily Jane White’s hometown of Fort Bragg, California, where in place of big-city shocks of excitement there stretches one drawn-out, stable truth, quiet and unflinching. You will live, Fort Bragg says, and then you will also assuredly die. Given the setting of her misty, woodland upbringing on the Mendocino Coast, it could be said that optimistic melancholy and isolation don’t merely suffuse Emily’s music, these elements are in her bones.
Emily’s new album, Blood / Lines, is a collection of gorgeously dark song vignettes built on a foundation of reverbed emotion, rhythmic drive, and minor-key pop sensibility. Blood / Lines features less of the folk / rock minimalism that shaped Emily’s previous works. She layers synthesizer, electric guitar and multiple tracks of ethereal vocals into nine heavily affected scenes. With the help of friends and collaborators Wainwright Hewlett, Shawn Alpay, Marissa Nadler, Nick Ott, and Darwin Meiners, her songs diversify with strings, backing vocals, bass, and heavy drums. Blood / Lines reveals loyalty to classic gothic motifs by moving through passion, anger, melancholy, destruction, isolation, romance, and abandonment. In the song “Wake” she laments, “Slaughter me / Slaughter you / Divinity is upon you / I take your hand / and I walk you out / I leave you now / to the frozen south,” emoting an icily sentimental suicide pact between lovers with a foreboding end.
Emily’s songwriting is at once generous and tough-minded, reflective and unsentimental. Her work possesses the confidence of a singular voice, inspired by the raveled threads of the uncanny in American culture, including depression-era blues and post-Victorian gothic literature.
After releasing three albums in three years (“Dark Undercoat“, 2008; “Victorian America“, 2009; “Ode To Sentience“, 2010), she wrote over 100 sketches between January 2011 and October 2012. Blood / Lines is a selection from these songs. The setting of a secluded recording studio in Sonoma County, California, gave Emily the inspiration to explore new directions and to grasp creative control.
Emily’s work lives between genres. Doom folk? Gothic Americana? Introspective Victorian rock? Devotees of her previous releases will notice that Blood / Lines follows a similar genre-bending lyrical sensibility, but is musically much heavier and thicker in sound.
Emily doesn’t wallow in morbidity; instead she considers her work to be unifying, an empathetic reflection on the universality of adversity. In “The Roses”, she asserts sanguinely: “And with ill fate / We lay beneath / Oh that white cross / Bearing this loss / And I shall continue to make bouquets of roses from this fate.” Blood / Lines will take you through the most forbidding realms, always returning to a place of resurrection.