Waiting for something is a weird place to be. It's a kind of limbo, like a crossroads in time, letting you look down the line at everything that brought you here to the inevitable event horizon at the finale.
Seattle singer/songwriter Emily Chavez wrote her second record Back To Chaos in this bubble of waiting after returning from Sierra Leone with a brief stint with the Peace Corps. She was evacuated due to an Ebola outbreak, and returned to Seattle to begin the creation of the 11 tracks that would make up Back To Chaos.
Emily Chavez has been compared to a number of strong female solo artists, most notably Patti Smith and Ani DiFranco. You can hear a bit of Smith in Chavez's warm, worn vocals, perfect for delivering the complexity of the emotions she speaks of. DiFranco's influence is present in a higher emphasis being placed on instrumental virtuosity, which is a nice touch, elevating Back To Chaos from a folky country strummer to a true piece of rock n’ roll art.
To get the full picture of Emily Chavez, you need to add a dash of the crazed vulnerablity of Cat Power, a splash of downer chanteuse Lera Lynn from True Detective Season 2 and a handful of the laidback nihilism of Modest Mouse, Ryan Adams and The Pixies. Too often, women artists are shoehorned into a folky singer/songwriter picture frame as one of the roles that people can understand. The inevitable comparisons to other talented acoustic roots musicians will be rolled out, and everybody feels good about it. We've seen this before, heard this before. We're okay; we know what's happening.
This gets even more complicated when the musician in question is playing folk-y instruments. Yes, Emily Chavez plays an acoustic guitar sometimes. This might lead lesser ears to draw the Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell comparisons. But she's not nearly as barebones as Baez, or as jazzy as Joni. Chavez is stringing her roots rock influences over a framework of sterling sharp '90s indie rock, a la Liz Phair, The Pixies or The Breeders.
This framework makes for a deeper and more nuanced listening experience. Emotions flicker across Back To Chaos like the clouds on a blustery Northwestern day. There's strength, and toughness, and warmth. There's also fear, regret, loss. And then there's the anticipation, waiting for the bubble to break and life to begin again.
Emily Chavez returned to the Peace Corps immediately after finishing Back To Chaos. Hopefully the waiting was worth it. And hopefully we won't have to wait too long for a follow-up to an outstanding debut.
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