From track to track and within each track itself, the possibilities are… unpredictable. “Rain Check,” with its groovy basslines and horns, could soundtrack a New York street party in the middle of a summer; “Mask Like Face” begins as a traditional indie pop track but explodes into digitized voice manipulations that cavort with strings and electronic blips. “C.U.P.I.D.” rolls with modern hip-hop swagger yet bears proggy guitar breakdowns; “Flashback” starts off peacefully nostalgic but builds into a cheesy ’80s guitar solo that disappears just as quickly as it appears.
Listen to “Crystal Ball” – DOWNLOAD MP3
Frontman Emil Hewitt and company are so adept at keeping you fascinated by their menagerie of sounds and influences that lyrical content — delivered by Hewitt in his clean, high-register voice reminiscent of emo frontmen of the ’90s — becomes secondary. Heavy effects and layering create vocals that often supplement the instrumentation rather than stand alone, and it may be only after numerous spin-throughs that one notices — indeed! — Hewitt is actually saying things like “C’est la vie/ No underwear” (“Ali Baba”) and “C-U-P-I-D/ Come for all the ladies” (“C.U.P.I.D.”).
It is to be noted, though, that not every song on Lo & Behold is so juvenile. “Lo & Behold” and “Perscriptions” may even be considered mature. Yet, it is the tracks which are most ridiculous that somehow clue listeners into Emil & Friends’ brilliance; they drive home the point that theirs is a clever and deliberate approach to pop.
Lo & Behold is an invitation for listeners to discover the fascinating universe of Emil & Friends, where overlooked details and textures never seem to stop emerging. Even when their lyrics ring silly or their choice of sound clips bear resemblance to hoaky game shows, antiquated spy films, or video game arcades, Emil & Friends have the sparkle to own every unconventional decision they make, with dignity.