Emma Citrine is good at being sad. I feel I can say that because many people have said the same thing about me. While it’s not what I’d like to be known for, it’s comforting to know I have a talent for expressing the emotion that takes up much of my time, and I hope Emma finds comfort in this ability as well. There is an experienced melancholy in her voice that brought weight to Allow To Remain, the 2015 EP from Leave, her duo with David Cowling. Emma’s latest release, Sad Surprise, will not disappoint those who love her unbridled sadness. Woven throughout the EP is the bitter sensation of lost love, the kind that settles at the bottom of your stomach and hurts every time you laugh.
But just as Emma promises sadness, she also promises surprise. I’m cynical when it comes to promises, but Sad Surprise delivers. As I listened to the EP’s first single, “A Screaming (comes across the sky),” the unexpected melodies and chord structures startled me. I know this comment is a little on the nose, but I swear it’s the truth. The song starts off as a simple folk ballad, but as it unfolds, it reveals lush harmonies and complex melodies. Amongst swelling ambience, the tune heads one way and then swerves another. At times, Emma reminds me of local dream-pop group The Belle Game and everyone’s favourite main stage festival act, Beach House.
This surprising ability to shift genres runs throughout the whole EP. Citrine keeps us transfixed by effortless hopping from one sound to another. Sad Surprise begins energetically with “Poor Boy,” a crunchy rockabilly tune with a double-time feel. This vigor continues on the second track, “Make War,” a song which mixes angry rock vocals that border on rap with surprisingly angelic backing harmonies. In contrast, the track “Ledges” is sweet and soft, and shines a spotlight on her strong vocal talent. She ends the album with “Give Them Love,” a reminder that under all of the anger and bitterness, Emma Citrine is still the queen of being sad. A title that is not meant as a premonition of a life of supreme sadness, but instead a trophy for having the courage to feel her feelings deeply, and share them with those of us who need to be reminded that we are not alone.