Following her promising 2017 debut album Quiet Giant, Emma Langford’s sophomore effort, Sowing Acorns, shows a maturity in songwriting and arrangement, with lavish instrumentals laying a foundation befitting her always enchanting vocal and deft lyricism.
A deeply personal album, evident from the collection of photographs and illustrations that adorn the artwork, Sowing Acorns takes the listener through the artist’s journey of self-discovery. Pains and woes are laid bare but grit and determination shine through, with defiant opening track ‘Birdsong’ serving as the album’s mission statement. Featuring the vocals of Ruth Smith, Alma Kelliher, Sive, Jess Leen, Cari Q and Niamh Farrell, the sparse track features only percussion towards its dramatic closing moments, all voices in unison and harmony spouting the mantra “I am strong as my bones”.
Themes of self-determination and autonomy ring throughout the album. For example, on ‘A Song for My Younger Self’ (“I work every day to make her proud, her voice was broken so I sing aloud”) and ‘Mariana’, which floats to a soft landing cushioned by tasteful strings. It is the title track, however, that could prove to be the most definitive track Emma Langford has produced to date. Opening with a sample of Vanessa Ifediora’s poem ‘Off-White Sheets’, backed by softly-plucked guitar, the song builds to a riveting chorus driven by rousing drums. Langford has never sounded so vital, few people ever have.
The album is not without moments of levity, however. ‘Ready-O’ is a cloyingly cute soul-pop throwback, while ‘Goodbye Hawaii’ is just as playful, a jangly song that boasts, of all things, a mouthed mock-trumpet solo.
Closing track ‘You Are Not Mine (This Song Isn’t About You, You Lying Bollix)’ points to all things that make this record special. Langford’s bold willingness to be unflinchingly honest and completely herself in her writing and performance, but also to laugh as she learns.
Throughout this baker’s dozen of songs, we get to know Emma Langford better than we ever have before. Louder than the Quiet Giant she once purported to be, if this is merely the artist sowing acorns, one can only imagine there are even grander things to come. Sowing Acorns is an outstanding collection of songs that points to Langford’s growth not only as an artist, but as a person.