Emily Jane White’s New Album Alluvion Is A Space For Those Needing to Express Their Grief
For those who discovered Kate Bush through Stranger Things and are looking for more artists within the genre of shoegaze pop, then look no further than Emily Jane White and her new album, Alluvion. The album name is inspired by the definition of the word “alluvion,” which is essentially the gradual addition to the land by the wash of water against a shore.
In comparison to Emily’s previous albums such as Blood/Lines and Victorian America, Alluvion almost completely eschews folk arrangements and instrumentation, instead bordering on the genres of shoegaze and electronic pop. Through the poetic lyrics and musical arrangements, Alluvion is an album about personal and collective grief resulting from the loss of human life and the continued loss of the natural world. The album refers to many of the social, political and environmental crises that the world is currently facing, especially as Alluvion was recorded during the height of the pandemic. For this reason, Alluvion serves as an act of public grieving, so that the world can take a breath together and move forward to find the spark of hope to tackle these issues as a community.
Alluvion’s lead single, “Show Me The War,” seamlessly blends synthesizer pulses and guitars with deep acoustic toms and drum machines as Emily sings about the act of protest. The lyrics specifically mention the protests against femicide in Juárez, Mexico and the protests against the anti-LGBTQIA+ laws in Poland. The music video depicts a group of women in black dresses walking through a city, past murals and through cemeteries as they light candles in remembrance of those who suffered.
Watch the music video for “Show Me The War” here:
“Show Me The War” then leads into “Crepuscule.” The song begins with a slow drum beat and guitar, which are the only instruments accompanying Emily’s vocals. The meaning of the word “crepuscule” is the time of partial darkness after the sun has just set, and this time of day is used to describe the feeling of grief. This is described through lyrics such as, “Melancholy unfolds/ In time, this cross glow/ I walked through grief spells/ Drawing from these old wells,” and, “Blessed is the timing/ For all of these pryings/ Fawning, caving, crying/ The trigger and denying.”
The third track on Alluvion, “Heresy,” explores the grief created by the destruction of women’s spaces and cultures. These themes are explored through lyrics such as, “For they don’t own your skin/ I see Eros in the wind/ Housed in prurient grins/ For they hurt, they kill, they win.” With Eros representing the god of erotic love, as well as the instinct to do anything to fufill basic needs (also known as the death instinct), Emily describes how dangerous it can be if women don’t have a community to fall back on for support. “Heresy” features guest vocals from Darkher, whose operatic lamentations act as a light leading the listener out of the darkness of this grief.
The next track, “Poisoned,” is the most traditionally Americana-sounding, mixing Emily’s finger-picked melody and distorted guitar stabs with a wall of synths. Her lyrics guide through these contradictions, especially in the pre-chorus as she sings, “Diamond eyes and a studded cross/ Through the harm drenched fields we walked/ I held you like a bag of bones/ Didn’t even feel like your own.”
“Body Against The Gun” is an ode to the current political climate and the government legislation that affects those who are most vulnerable. Defiant lyrics such as “I am too young for a choice made by me,” “And so you flee to a different state where it’s legal to operate,” and “It happens every day/ Her will is taken away” emphasize the struggle of those most affected by a lot of legislation surrounding healthcare.
The themes of “Body Against The Gun” pair perfectly with the next track, “The Hands Above Me.” The song asks a simple, yet poignant question: Who do those in power work for? Emily’s lyrics voice the thoughts of those struggling as she sings, “You dwell upon those whom you abandon/ Eyes be true, you betray those who uphold you.” Emily’s lyrics encapsulate the feeling of powerlessness and defeat of anyone fighting for change within the system.
Watch the music video for “The Hands Above Me” here:
“Mute Swan” showcases the power of Emily’s lyrics poetically describing the pain and grief described throughout Alluvion, and transitions perfectly into the next track, “Hold Them Alive.” Here, Emily confronts the destruction caused by unacknowledged grief directly: “So how do I walk while holding some kind of words that morph from bereaving?/ Withered is the arch, the moon hangs bleeding/ I’ve lived, the dark energy feeding.” Combined with the haunting quality of Emily’s voice, the drum beat in the background, and more distorted guitar, the lyrics hit the listener on a deeper level.
“Hollow Hearth” describes the difficulty of keeping the heart open to reflection, especially when it is at its most vulnerable. The song starts simply with the piano and orchestra, gradually building with the addition of the drums and guitar, until the climax of the song hits with crashing drums. Here, Emily passionately sings, “Oh dissections, oh of the heart/ I was taught to take myself apart/ It lives in you, harbors in the dark/ Morbid reflection, a dying art.”
“I Spent The Years Frozen” paints a picture of the feeling so frozen in grief, that one turns within and locks out the world. This act turns to feeling as though one is stuck frozen in time, while life seems to move on without them, as is described in the final lyrics of the song, “I spent the years frozen/ In me, always, in me, always.”
The final song of Alluvion, “Battle Call,” is a full circle moment alluding to “Show Me The War.” It’s a hopeful depiction of what the future can be, even after suffering through an endless sea of grief and sadness. “Battle Call” is the light at the end of the tunnel, guiding the listener through the final verse, “But I hold, I hold you now/ We can make it out somehow/ Turn to face the battle call/ The mark it leaves inside us all.” Although grief can make one feel as though they are alone in their sadness, Emily comforts the listener by letting them know that they aren’t alone in their grief, and that there is light on the other side.
Emily Jane White’s Alluvion beautifully depicts the grief many have experienced throughout the past few years. This album is Emily’s answer to the need for a space to acknowledge and feel this grief, and to begin taking the necessary steps to move forward.
For now, you can listen to Alluvion below: