Conscious attempts to achieve commercial success can be lucrative or disastrous. Emma Pollock’s post Delgados debut has plenty of the characteristics of an album that shifts units in Best Buy. It sounds at home in the commercial singer songwriter field, as Jeremy Wheatley’s mix is polished and glistening. Thankfully it also bears all the hallmarks of an album from a member of one of the last decade’s better indie pop bands. Watch the Fireworks seems like a logical successor to The Delgados commercial and critical peak, 2000’s Mercury Prize nominated The Great Eastern. The material is a little more universally minded, but a familiar wit and sound is recognisable.
Watch the Fireworks is sometimes comparable to K.T Tunstall’s Eye to the Telescope in terms of song arrangements and veneer. Occasionally, on songs like “You Come Around,” the content tone matches. Generally though, Pollock decorates the folky, pop-rock canvas with her own distinguishing marks. “Limbs” rivals Aimee Mann in terms of ability to provoke contemplation. “Adrenaline” is a potential drive time hit that doesn’t gnaw. The Coldplay pianos and Elevation ambience are offset nicely by some typically redemptive words on the will to “stop this motion from flowing.” This is music for people who sometimes struggle to work out why they find themselves at airports. Meanwhile “This Rope’s Getting Tighter” puts the author in a more familiar context, alongside the likes of Erin Mckeown and Jolie Holland. It takes a special kind of talent to write a VH1 friendly ballad that includes the inviting brace: “meet me from the inside out/ this gut rot I could do with out.”
Penultimately, we get one of the best songs of the past year. “Here Comes the Heartbreak” is as good as anything Pollock has been involved in. It’s an outsider plea for reconciliation or at least intelligent decision making between lovers. The lyrics will make heads turn if heard over the hum of background noise. It begins with her assuring one half that “This is no accident/ This is no lucky encounter/ She’s been standing in this spot for hours trying to think of something good to say.” Her focus on the partner’s need for attachment borders on comical (“just a new excuse to stay indoors“), but contains an implication that both seem equally ridiculous as only one of them is trying. The song ends with Emma expressing the subject’s desire to “to lose your faith together.” Somehow it’s a really uplifting listen.
Watch the Fireworks does all that can be expected to soundtrack dinner parties and the sale of mobile phones or heated beverages. It’s also a good album, and deserves to sell a lot of copies.
The Delgados – The Great Eastern
K.T Tunstall – Eye to the Telescope
Erin Mckeown – Grand