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Emily Baker - House Of Cards (Album Review)

Tuesday, 08 March 2011 Written by Jonny Rimmer
Emily Baker - House Of Cards (Album Review)

'House of Cards' is the debut album by Arts Foundation Songwriting award winner by Emily Baker. It doesn’t take particularly long for such an accolade to reveal itself.

Considering this is her first release, these songs are arranged as impeccably as an Annie Lennox record; indeed, the legendary artist herself presented Baker with the very award.

ImageUltimately, however, 'House of Cards' is a tutorial in frustration and potential. Reading the lyrics to this album, you will be struck by how poetic so much of it is: “Why is it always raining when you scream blue thunder?” ('Rich Man’s Weekend'); and “I’m resting on the king and queen of hearts, holding onto jokers in the dark...” ('House of Cards'). Reading along to the tales and tribulations that are conveyed on the record is a rewarding experience.

And what of the music? The songstress scatters ukulele and glockenspiel, as well as guitars, throughout 'House of Cards', decorating the fluent songwriting to a tee. The most atmospheric track of the bunch would be 'Half in Bits', melancholic but with a strong affirming chorus. Baker’s vocals are distinct, if not entirely unusual; there are echoes of contemporaries such as KT Tunstall, who garnered a fair bit of success with this brand of folk-pop a few years ago.

That perhaps explains the main flaw with this record. It’s very well tailored, nothing sounds out of place, and the chordal patterns are often entertaining – but gosh, she needs to let go a bit. You hate to use the term middle of the road when describing an album so well written, but too many songs here sail close to blander shores.

Thus the frustration with 'House of Cards': 'Rich Man’s Weekend' has a nice tone to it, with its atmospheric Hammond Organ and spoken word outro, but a poor chorus; 'Overcoat' and 'Fools' have some lovely guitar sequences but you find yourself waiting for a flare-up of sorts.

When this album does hit though, the potential becomes very evident. It is more than possible that Baker can write songs with ease, but the difference between a new PJ Harvey and a new Katie Melua might just be that little bit of panache.

Album Rating: 7/10

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