Emiko’s latest and long awaited release is a sensational five-track EP that bursts into action with an infectious, funk-soaked rhythm and blues piece that feels like an instant classic. Opening song California Screamin’ fuses a touch of retro electronic funk with something much more organic and even country-rock inspired. It showcases a stunning level of production and a complete and satisfying composition style that just screams style and professionalism all at once. And on top of all of this is Emiko’s familiar and powerful leading voice, bringing the necessary character and swagger to the stage, and offering up an immediately memorable melody-line and a superb hook. It’s the perfect way to introduce the new collection.
Moving forwards, Emiko’s musical preferences show themselves in a few different ways. The sound is always hers, the genuine level of emotion, the flawless vocal performances, the instantly captivating melodies, but musically there’s a lot that varies throughout and this is what helps make Looking At Later a definite winner for the long term playlist.
Hold On To Hope is a beautifully smooth piece of music and writing, already presenting once again a fantastic melody line, and in this case putting forth something of a trip-hop and soul fusion that arrives with a much lighter ambiance. Unlike the energetic and attention grabbing opener, this second track leaves you calm and contemplative as it plays out around you. The arrangement adds cleverly to the strength of the complete collection.
I Believe You has a classic pop feel to it that brings a touch of nostalgia in a way. The musical backdrop, the rhythm, the vocal style – it all has a very quiet feel at first, later exploding into what is, of course, yet another massive hook. There’s no question as to why these songs make up the project, it feels like a best-of in many ways. Even in this case, the retro keys, the slightly familiar musicality, there’s still something immensely fresh and satisfying about the set-up, and that central line, that hook, stays with you for quite some time after listening.
Invincible is a notably personal and incredibly open song that feels like a straight from the heart piece, a diary entry even. The concept of feeling invincible is widely accessible, the lyrics may be catered intensely to the individual artist, but the overall idea makes itself relevant to just about anyone who has been through similar experiences. It’s a powerful balance between two extremes, and all the while this smooth arena of electronica and a slightly effected leading vocal flow out and around you in a gentle yet distinctly passionate manner.
The project comes to a close with yet another classic-pop sentiment in the form of Brave All Along. It’s a song that starts off in a fairly subtle way, the sound is crisp and joyful, a vibrant backdrop supports and contrasts a slightly gentler leading vocal. And once again, all of this is leading with absolute structural prowess towards one last but by no means least infectious and unforgettable hook. The song progresses with a touch of the familiar and satisfying and an equal level of the completely unexpected, particular that bridge section, the spoken word style, the brief acoustic guitar appearance in its isolated setting – laying the leading vocal bare for just a moment. It’s a huge song, really well crafted as always – close attention has been paid to every line and every moment of musical evolution, and it shows, and it keeps you involved.
This entire EP is genuinely a powerful and pretty special collection. It’s exciting to hear something new from Emiko, but for the quality to be so high and for the songs to be so enjoyable, so varied, and to connect in the way that they do – it adds hugely to the listening experience. Brilliant songwriting, stunning compositions, and flawless musical performances to back it all up.