Album Of The Week: Emergency Circus by Ethel Scout
A swirling compulsion of rock assurance, Emergency Circus is a deeply fascinating release full of agitated phrasing, affable angst, and gritty charm. Though only comprised of three songs, it’s a memorable release with intriguing musical ideas from a talented musician who bolsters those ideas with infectious melodies, soul-affirming grooves, and an opaque mystery that’s easily worth an evening of re-listens. In just a quarter hour, you can breeze through her rock pageantry, but it will take you countless hours on top of that to really absorb the full weight of the music and the deeper meaning behind each imperfection and achievement.
The EP opens with “Lamp Post,” an instantly affecting tune driven by alt-rock sounds and navigated by indie vision so it hits all the mile markers necessary for a classic rock journey. It’s the most straight-forward of Ethel Scout’s songs, but still rich with structural exploration, abandoning an established groove with sharp detours into unpaved roads that are just as scenic and vibrant as their more travelled counterparts.
The remaining two tracks — “Emergency Circus” and “New,day” — are more sprawling compositions that never feel satisfied, constantly stretching to explore the boundaries of its subject matter and sonic survey. It’s here that the full scope of Ethel Scout is felt, one that’s not bridled by a passionate reimagination of rock music, but instead sustained by a search for clarity, one that seems to become obtainable through abstract sonic distillation, even if it does sound familiar and uniform.
The three songs are each full of imperfections, from unpolished recordings to fragmented compositions that are simply magnetic in their cooperative execution. Each opaque lyric adds to the record’s swirling mystique, the unbalanced mix relays the faint aroma of anxiety, and the abrupt shifts point to a restless mind, yearning for that clarity as well as absolution. Through errant samples and unpredictable mixing effects, one could surmise this is a message never meant to be fully deciphered, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still inspire and excite its listeners, and it does just that through each listen.
Above all though, it’s the unassuming brilliance of Emergency Circus that make it a record worth highlighting. It’s a clear archetype for the synergistic adage “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Sure, the record has its fair share of fun guitar lines, coercive grooves, and surprising lyrics, but these alone are not piquing your interest. In fact, Emergency Circus is compelling in the same way a painter can create a masterpiece using limited strokes and colors. It may not be one worthy of further dissection, but definitely one that requires further attention and admiration, one any listener should be happy to provide.