If Montreal-based artist Emilie Kahn were a landscape she’d be floating above us; a candyfloss cloud with a silver border. Occasionally plummeted into neon light, unicorns would gallop majestically around towers of wispy fog, and at night, stars would peak shyly through her shimmering windows.
As a harpist and vocalist, Emilie Kahn is fundamentally one of those artists: the glitter synth mob that sort of invented chill pop but didn’t really because that implies there was effort on their part. Hard to like, and even harder to define. Her debut album as a solo artist, Outro embodies the whimsical scene perfectly, as she explores the melodic end of the freak pop-meets-shoegaze spectrum.
Put simply, the moments of hazy twinkle on Outro are too frail to enjoy. There’s nothing to grasp hold of, but in this bouncy, pain-free world the listener still somehow gets pulled along for the ride, bouncing aimlessly from one cloud to another as they try vainly to stop the spinning. It’s so directionless as to be unpleasant. Unfortunately for the album, the production dips in and out of consciousness, and such moments appear on most songs. The ballads are the worst for it; those who are particularly impatient should avoid “Seeking” and album intro “Swimmer”.
The upside of this delirium is the relief that’s felt when the clouds clear. Despite initial impressions, Emilie Kahn is a very able pop songwriter. Lead single “Island” is deceptively catchy and comparable to fellow Canadian Lowell; and on “Three” the unicorns all but bare their teeth. It echoes – albeit faintly – shuffled feet and pumped stereos. Penultimate track “Never Good Enough” is a standout, as it finally tweaks the tempo high enough to hit the gold standard of chill, complete with washes of synth and harp. It calls out for a decent remix.
In fact, the whole album calls out for a decent remix, which in this writer’s limited understanding of production suggests something went awry in the recording studio for Kahn. Outro is frustrating, but if you’re a fan of the genre, there are glimpses of mastery that are worth a search on Youtube.
Release: 22nd February 2019, Secret City Records