The sadness of the past, the melancholia of the present and the futility of the future. All these thematic elements make the most dysphoric return in Emanuel’s 2021 8-track album — Alt Therapy. Only most rarely in music review do journalists come across an album with such a sweet tastefulness of conventional Rhythm and Blues with the most soulful of vocals. When they do, perhaps it leaves them disillusioned or in shock. I certainly was.
Alt Therapy Session 1: Disillusion is followed through with this full-length album of a similar title. Notwithstanding, the path for the album was paved by the EP and in creating a whole new audience for the singer-songwriter. It is tough to see anything going wrong: it is decorated with Emanuel’s classic album art style, a runtime of a comfortable fourteen minutes and perfectly lays down the future for its musical successor. The album consists of eight tracks: Need You, Thought It’d Be Easy, Addiction, I Need A Doctor, Detention, Hindsight, Magazines, PTH, Black Woman, Pillows , Worldwide and I Been. Very much like Kendrick Lamar’s Backseat Freestyle, the songs in the album seem to represent one connected storyline with individual episodic melodies for each juncture of the story.
The leads open with Need You, which wastes no time in telling the listener, “Alright, here is the piano, and oh, there is the synth. It’s begun” in the most cinematic soundscape. The melancholic piano is not very unlike what you would hear in a bar almost closing with the shutters half down and the bartender asking the pianist to wind up for the night. This is upped only by the shy synth that draws itself into the track, decorated by Emanuel’s silky vocal range reminiscent of RnB mavericks like Frank Ocean, 6LACK or Dylan Sinclair with a hint of the sureness of Nina Simone. Need You is romantic melancholia and the feelings of nascent love — the feelings that come and go — represented through the crests and troughs in Emanuel’s voice. The opening lyrics — “I feel like I fell in love with you like a song on the radio” speak of the heartbreaking impassionate emotion that comes with realizing the forthcoming of future love. The song is accompanied by mellow percussive elements presented in the accurate decibel so that it does not trump the multi-layered vocal capacity and storytelling.
The soundscape of the first track is carried forward into the second making it even more immersive. Thought It’d Be Easy, naturally, becomes the sequel to the developments in the story — it is a heart-wrenching separation track, where Emanuel’s repentance towards the former love is reflected in his thoughts appearing to him during lovemaking with another. The hint of an underlying electric guitar makes its way into the track at junctures to up the emotional ante. The beautiful blending of the two stories gives the hint of an almost concept-EP.
Carrying the EP forward is Addiction — a soundscape that is nostalgic of a sunset Los Angeles boulevard, with the percussive elements in the EP making their most prominent entry. The track is more upbeat than its previous tracks and is arguably one that speaks of life in the fast lane — the marriage to the game and the frenzy that immediately comes with it in the form of women, psychedelia and merrymaking. Addiction is the post-breakup closure song that comes with the feeling of making it out of an emotionally vulnerable place. The comfortable groove of the track renders it thoroughly enjoyable, making it one of the tracks people can remember the album by. The EP draws to a close with the return of the opening track Need You with a tasty kick-snare ratio, giving it the hip-hop memorabilia with mellow 808s and vinyl crackles.
I Need a Doctor is a song for those who wish to fix the past and seek help. Detention indicates how time passes by as one loses all hope of finding love and moving ahead in life. Hindsight felt like a recap of the year gone by — a dire need for money as businesses shut down and people were fired from jobs. Magazine addresses the conflict in relationships as one looks for validation from the outside. PTH talks about female sexuality and the idea of finally being together, alone.
Black Woman talks about the strength women possess. The song was released around the time protests regarding police reform took over the United States following the murder of George Floyd. Pillows talks about discovering oneself again- finding love and peace. Worldwide indicates Emanuel’s desire to take his music across continents.The album ends with I Been– a song that talks about disagreements in relationships but being together at the end of the day.
“This album represents a spiritual self-discovery for me,” says Emanuel. “It’s about the nuances of the human experience. I hope ALT THERAPY inspires others to gain understanding about themselves and the world, and that it’s attached to beautiful memories in their lives the way certain music is attached to mine. That would be an honour.”
Alt Therapy is one of those masterpieces that make you wonder why the artist is not the talk of the town. Notwithstanding, with the EP and its subsequent daughter album, one can easily assume that it will not be long before Emanuel is dominating global charts.