The singer-songwriter genre can be fairly predictable; but Meredith’s new project, For Esmé is different, choosing to deviate from the norm with elements of contrast and surprise. The album’s opening track, “302”, begins with an uncomfortable 25 seconds of silence before giving way to echoing synth. It’s just one of many instances that Meredith plays with the friction of opposition. The entire album hinges itself on a constant tension, pushing and pulling between polar opposites. Meredith’s vocals sway between sweet and sultry, while the accompanying band provides an equal amount of drama with eloquent strings and pulsing rhythms.
Lyrically, the themes are intelligent and refreshingly honest. Meredith explores a range of topics, particularly diving headfirst into the longing of hopes and dreams, as well as exploring the effects of fear and pain. These polarities are not only present from track to track, but also within each song. There is noticeable attention paid to the fact that at any given moment life can be simultaneously good and bad. “Alice” is a track that epitomizes this with Meredith’s hauntingly beautiful line: “I’m gonna harness that hurt and make it work for me.”
This complexity and reflection is what makes For Esmé so unique. There are definitely a few fun and whimsical moments, but by and large the album is a sophisticated one. This maturity can partially be attributed to some of Meredith’s influences – Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, and Emily Haines. The same spunk and emotion can easily be heard in Meredith’s voice in each track, and fans of those artists can easily appreciate her vocal and lyrical style. Overall, For Esmé is a strong debut that commands attention from the very start. Martha Meredith breathes new life into the saturated singer-songwriter market with creative lyrics, powerful vocals, and dynamic instrumentation that’s sure to surprise.
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