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4.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (13 Jun. 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Close Harbour (Stage 3)
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,496 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Dinosaur Sex
  2. A Woman, A Woman, A Century Of Sleep
  3. Iris
  4. Paper Forest (In The Afterglow Of Rapture)
  5. Cassandra
  6. Creation
  7. Sylvia
  8. Exit Night / Juliet's Theme
  9. North
  10. Trellick Tower

Product Description

BBC Review

On the one hand sweeping and allusive, on the other breathtakingly intimate and personal, Virtue is a dense, accomplished set of songs brought on by the disintegration of Emma-Lee Moss's engagement. Amid the swirling Paper Forest she sings the words "I'm blessed" with heartbreaking clarity; a kind of awestruck self-belief. Her delivery anchors the whole affair, assuming an emotional weight only glimpsed at previously.

Released through the band's own Close Harbour imprint and financed via the PledgeMusic fan-funding scheme, it is a far bigger, roomier set than debut album First Love, wherein many of the same players revolve around the core duo of Moss and Euan Hinshelwood. Along with producer Gareth Jones, the latter is responsible for the musical shift in tone. Softly wailing electric guitars and fuzzy basslines underpin many of the songs, which – married to Moss's plangent tones and a bevy of backing vocalists – creates a dreamy, otherworldly effect. If First Love sounded merely (very, very) pretty, then Virtue sees the pair hit upon something a little more idiosyncratic and unique.

Which is, you feel, exactly what they were aiming for. From the sultry, suggestive cover art to the wealth of characters and themes touched on over its 10 songs, Virtue is an extraordinarily confident work, even if that confidence is shaped by confusion and turmoil. Moss plays with the idea of narrative in the slow-burning Creation and delves into Jungian theory in Cassandra, talks dinosaur sex in, erm, Dinosaur Sex and paradise in North, pondering virtue and femininity all the while (A Woman, a Woman, a Century of Sleep is particularly stirring). There's a lot to chew on and conclusions are sometimes elusive, though the explorations precipitating them are unanimously enchanting.

On Paper Forest she sings of celebrating "The things that break us open and the things that make us feel." It's these things the record is ultimately concerned with, and she's never painted them as effectively as on the piano-led closer Trellick Tower. Moss's fiancé left her after discovering the church, and the song finds her alone in the flat they used to share, equating love with religion in an effort to work it all out. Resigned but never accusatory, it makes for a poignant reassurance that sometimes feeling utterly bewildered and lost is not only natural, but a strange and unmistakeable cause for optimism.

--James Skinner

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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By Peter TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 May 2012
Format: Audio CD
Virtue is Emmy the Great's second album. Unlike the first album, which has great songs but an unsatisfying whole, Virtue is nearly perfect. There's a unity of theme and style, and the producer, Gareth Jones, has helped to create a consistent sound for the album, resulting in something greater than the sum of its parts. Emmy-Lee Moss's songs are mainly about words and about story, and employ lovely extended metaphors. There's a refreshing originality of vision, and while the songs are about Emma's personal experiences - sometimes related with excruciating honesty - the subject matter is something that most of us can relate to.

In the original release there are ten tracks, making a sensible 45 minutes of music. The swoopy pitch changes of the opening track, Dinosaur Sex, accompanies a simile about cranes that look like dinosaurs, and about the fate of the dinosaurs (and perhaps about our fate too). A Woman, A Woman, a Century of Sleep is a catchy singalong about the prospect of becoming a housewife. Paper Forest is about the written remnants of the relationship - and who is there without an uncomfortable stack of letters or diary entries somewhere in the house? As the album progresses, the songs change to a nostalgia for that other land that is the past, for what might have been.

The final song of the original release, Trellick Tower, is a study in dignified acceptance of the way her fiancé abandoned her that will resonate with all of us that have suffered an inexplicable loss. Trellick Tower, incidentally, is a rebarbative West London tower block in the brutalist style of the 1960s, not a Cornish beauty spot as I first imagined.
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By Peter TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Jun. 2011
Format: Audio CD
There's a set of themes running through Virtue that link the songs together to make something more than the sum of the parts. The album is largely about weddings and the religious and cultural baggage that attends them. Writer and singer Emma-Lee Moss was engaged to be married in summer 2010. However, her fiancé suddenly broke off the engagement when he decided to become a religious missionary: this album has consequently become a means of exorcising the awfulness of that event, and in the process it is one of the most personal, cogent and thrilling albums I've listened to in a long time.

The component pieces come from cultural history, and from Moss's own perceptive insight both into the physical world, such as shipping container cranes like dinosaurs that fornicate in a futile effort to avoid extinction, and the stark 1960's brutalism of West London's Trellick Tower, which is a metaphor for Moss's vanished relationship. There are fragments of fairytales (and what are fairytales other than stylised ordeals - princesses that sleep for a hundred years, the path through the dark forest) and lots of religious metaphors: North is about the selfish exclusivity of the paradises that some religious people want to inhabit; Trellick Tower uses religious relics as a metaphor for Moss's abandoned state - the relics "ache for when the saint had breath". There are even some secondary sources - there's a quote from Patti Smith's Dancing Barefoot, which is itself a quote from the Gospel according to Luke.
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Format: Audio CD
Loved this album. As with First Love, however, it took some time to appreciate. Give it time to grow on you. As with many albums from long ago it rewards listening. I can't give it the full five stars because I'm still miffed at not getting the extra songs of the bonus edition. As with many other things these days it seems that loyalty is penalised.
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Format: Audio CD
This album is an impressive return from the already impressive First Love - Bonus Edition. Emmy has a wonderful singing voice, clear and melodic, punchy and almost staccato but ultimately incredibly versatile, imbuing her lyrics with the frankness and openness in which I believe her songs are intended. The music is enticing to the ear and accompanies her lyrics perfectly, each song evoking a world of it's own with vibrant and interesting but unobtrusive instrumentation and choral arrangements as the words and music play off each other in turn, joining harmoniously throughout in a more stylistically coherent structure than her debut.

Like many great artists, Emmy is not one to shy away from the tragedies, experiences and nuances of life, instead utilising them to great effect, making her music incredibly mature and poignant rather than deliberately nonsensical and commercially nondescript. Thus, we are welcomed refreshingly and offered a delightful insight into Emmy and her many influences and experiences in an intimate and inviting manner befitting a friend rather than a fan.

The album itself is seemingly wrought with the dichotomy of life, the contradictions in our nature and experience that often make our lives what they are. The apparent futility of life itself when confronted with individual action against the collective of humanity, the pain of loss and its necessity in appreciating joy. This is often conveyed via detachment through fairytale and religious imagery, in a way that both evokes a collective nostalgia of childhood and home but also shows how we can all find it easier to express ourselves, sometimes unintentionally, through indirect rather than direct means.
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