When: Sat., Sept. 21, 9 p.m. 2013
There are lots of breakup records, but few seethe with fury like Emma “Scout” Niblett’s recent It’s Up to Emma (Drag City). The album has an austere, acidic sound, and the opening track, “Gun,” makes it perfectly clear where her mind is: “I think I’m gonna buy me a gun,” she snarls. As the record progresses, its portrait of her emotional state grows more tangled until the only thing it’s easy to be sure about is that her relationship is irrevocably destroyed. She doesn’t threaten violence again, but she stays angry, using her lean, blues-kissed songs as though they could grab her ex by the shoulders and shake him—on “Second Chance Dreams,” though, she allows that her own conflicted feelings make for a murky situation. On “Can’t Fool Me Now” she begins to tap into the cathartic power of self-reclamation, concentrating her contempt into a dusky, clenched drawl, her voice gilded only by cranky, biting guitar chords and long tones on overdubbed violins and violas. Even a cover of the TLC hit “No Scrubs” fits in perfectly—she removes its lite R&B flavor and sings it with a gravity missing from the original. Throughout the album Niblett is supported by a variety of drummers, and the aforementioned strings grace a couple other songs, but her wonderfully parched voice and scrappy guitar playing stay in the foreground, helping distill her messy emotions into something powerfully concise. I like all of Niblett’s records, but this is her most potent and purposeful. —Peter Margasak Dope Body opens.