Sometimes you have to dance in the wreckage to make truthful art. Over the past few years, alt-rock artist Emily Bell has been on a path of glorious destruction, moving away from industry artistic paradigms to follow the music yelling at her from within.
The Austin-based artist’s latest EP is titled, Kali, in reference to the Hindu Goddess of Destruction. Like its moniker suggests, it’s a boldly expressive release. It melds the swagger of garage rock with the textural possibilities of synthetic sounds for an empowering artistic statement.
“This EP is me being brutally honest and following my heart as a lyricist,” the Austin, Texas-based artist shares.
Central to Emily’s path has been a formative moment when she walked away from the allure of a career as a soul/R&B artist. At the time, she felt stifled by the stodgy female artist stereotypes that still existed in the industry. She relocated from LA to Austin to free herself. There she assembled a band, The Talkbacks, and began writing songs with a defiant emotionality. Her new music combined the dizzying beauty of her soul-influenced singing and songwriting with the sass and snarl of 1990s alt-rock and garage rock.
In 2014, Emily unleashed her debut, In Technicolor. It garnered rave reviews from press and radio. In Austin, she was awarded “Best New Artist” by the Austin Music Awards. Select highlights during that album cycle include performances at SXSW, CMJ, and Float Fest.
Kali is a different beast from its predecessor. It favors a rugged bottom end crafted from burly live drums layered, in parts, with programmed beats, and it embraces expansive synth textures. It’s an artistic breakthrough rooted in loss (a tragic death in the family) and enlightenment gleaned from two months spent in India where Emily learned of Kali, the “Goddess Of Destruction.” Kali’s power resonated with Emily because of her own passion and commitment for embodying, and furthering, strong female archetypes.
A fiery sense of empowerment imbues Kali. The EP opens with a rhythmic dissonant pummeling—the introductory musical motif conjures a wall being battered down. The track, “Can’t Talk Back,” melds strutting garage rock with filthy electronica, and it could be a Riot Grrrl anthem for 2017. Fittingly, it’s video rallies around women in sports and features a women’s football team and rowdy female football players. The title track is both tribal and tender, trading in extremes of delicate atmospheric pop and burly alt-rock. Its video reflects these contrasts by gloriously mixing and matching arty imagery with sensual imagery. Another stunning EP moment is the delicately powerful “Goldmine,” a stirring and galvanizing track for communities threatened because they’re on the fringe of mainstream culture.
Having Kali course through Emily has been transformative. She says: “This EP taught me that I can share my truth, and remove my inhibitions. It made me stronger and emboldened.”