US singer/songwriter/guitarist Emily Wolfe returns with ‘The Blowback’, her first album since the release of 2021’s ‘Outlier’, and since that release, the world has gotten even-more fucked-up and ‘The Blowback’ is the explosive result of a few years where the phrase “Hold my beer…” was sadly all-too overused. Who knew that the UK would look at 4 years of Donald Trump and say “Hold my beer…”; everyone, right?
With the sad rise of eejits like Andrew Tate being a by-product of the golden era of Elon Musk-endorsed vitriol on Twitter (calling it “X” gives it legitimacy), there are many sections of the populace who rightly feel that they are walking around with a large target on their back, and on ‘The Blowback’ Wolfe is giving them a voice.
‘The Blowback’ opens with ‘Silencer’, a punky gut-punching response from a sexual assault victim, with Wolfe “…determined to sing it powerfully for the person that it’s for – the victim – and all the other people who have been affected by it.” Played out over a gorgeous guitar tone, the lyrics don’t miss their intended target: with Wolfe spitting out in an almost rap-style during the second verse “You got a weapon on your body big man/The stud son never learns his lessons” before adding “With doors open wide, you’re like the nicest guy/ You pull it shut, keep a lie going ’til you die.” The bridge leading up to the last chorus is particularly infectious and when it is cranked up, it is easy to see why Emily Wolfe opening for The Gaslight Anthem on the latter’s March 2024 EU & UK tour makes sense. Thought-provoking and unsettling, especially when you find yourself tapping your toes to that infectious bridge. ‘Predator’ is another new track that sends a message to victims of sexual assault that they are not at fault, and the blame lies squarely with the perpetrator (“Go ahead and blame it on the woman and your fucked up Dad”).
Wolfe has a fantastic knack for ensnaring people in with some major hooks and then when she has them, she knocks them for six with such powerful lyrics. The flip side of this is a track like ‘Dead End Luck’. A tale of the worst day ever that most people will be able to identify with on some level (“Today, today has chewed me up/And spit me out”), but here’s the thing, it’s so lighter-than-light and poppy (ditto ‘Hopeless in Panorama’) that Spotify could slip both into a Taylor Swift/Olivia Rodrigo/Rina Sawayama playlist and Wolfe’s reach would increase by millions overnight. What would she spend the $0.00001 royalties on though?
Although based in liberal Austin, Texas, Wolfe knows that as a gay woman, outside of Austin she would be opening herself up for strong resistance from a state where being gay is still regarded as a sin and is something to hide. With ultra-right-wing Gov. Greg Abbott at the helm, Texas is not an easy state to grow up in if you belong to the LGBTQIA+ community, and, more than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Texas continues to be the largest state in America to ban nearly all abortions. State lawmakers have only recently affirmed protections for medical professionals who exercise “reasonable judgment” to treat ectopic pregnancies and when a patient’s water breaks too early for the fetus to survive outside of the womb. Sadly, it’s fair to say that her home state has given Wolfe so much ammunition that she could write 5 albums and still have enough left over for 5 tour special editions. Texas gets both barrels on ‘Walk In My Shoes’ (another infectious few minutes, but this time with a massive strutting groove) “America the Great/Where men decide your fate” and “What does it affect if I go down on a girl/Protect your mother’s feelings/While she’s wearing her pearls” – all wrapped up in a lovely Nile Rodgers-like vibe with such strong hooks (both vocally and musically) and one incredible shift from Johnny Radelat on drums and percussion. ‘Road to Ruin’ is another moment where Radelat excels, and the fuzzed-up jam between himself, Wolfe on lead guitar, and Evan Nicholson on bass is something to behold, as is the sublime ‘Rock Bottom on a High Wire’ which has one of the cleanest, purest guitar tones (courtesy of Wolfe on her signature Epiphone Sheraton model) that you will hear today.
Self-produced, ‘The Blowback’ is nothing short of staggering. It’s also very varied, with the synth strains of experimental album closer ‘Can I Read Your Mind, Lover’ working in perfect harmony with Wolfe’s guitar tones and sounding nothing like what came before it. A magical ending to the album.
Available now via Crows Feet Records, more information here.
Review – Dave
Photo credits – Jackie Lee Young
2024 live dates:
06.03.24 STOCKHOLM (SE) The Annex
07.03.24 OSLO (NO) Sentrum Scene
09.03.24 COPENHAGEN (DK) Gray Hall
11.03.24 BERLIN (DE) Columbiahalle
12.03.24 WIESBADEN (DE) Schlachtof
14.03.24 BRUSSELS (BE) Ancienne Belgique
15.03.24 COLOGNE (DE) Palladium
16.03.24 UTRECHT (NL) Tivoli/Vredenburg Ronda
18.03.24 GLASGOW (UK) Academy
21.03.24 SHEFFIELD (UK) Academy
22.03.24 MANCHESTER (UK) O2 Apollo
23.03.24 WOLVERHAMPTON (UK) Civic Hall
25.03.24 LONDON (UK) Roundhouse
26.03.24 LONDON (UK) Roundhouse
29.03.24 DUBLIN (IE) 3Olympia