EP Review: Emily Manuel – Live Forever

Rising Denver artist Emily Manuel showcases her flowing and intricate indie folk sound on her stunning debut EP Live Forever

Thanks to her classical and jazz training and her affinity for all things indie, Denver, Colorado artist Emily Manuel has melded together her influences and passions to create a sound that feels instantly captivating and fresh, and entirely her own. This sense of uniqueness and charm shines through on the artist’s debut EP Live Forever, a collection of five tracks that encompass a wide range of emotions and themes, with the multi-talented artist’s proficiency at playing guitar, piano, synths and upright bass providing a real sense of gravity and weight to her sound and making for a style that feels as haunting as it is rousing.

The first track on the EP is the titular ‘Live Forever’, a track that immediately showcases the lush strings that will accompany us throughout. The first thing that is apparent is how intricate the music feels, with the instrumentation complex and delicate, interweaving and busy but never feeling crowded, complimenting each other with a deftness that feels improbable. The softness of the artist’s vocals on the track has an underlying power that feels quietly fierce and empowering, intoxicating and captivating throughout.

The piano-led ‘So Long’ follows and again provides us with chance to marvel at Emily’s artistry and poise as an artist, as the track draws into a full band sound it never loses its wistful sense of balladry and allure, technically impressive but packing a considerable amount of heart and soul throughout. The theme of beauty is one that is interwoven throughout the EP, and the musicality alone on this track is enough to reinforce that idea, even as drums join the fold late on to inject it an extra sense of power.

The more brooding and slow-burning ‘Scrawl’ follows, with the track deliberately and cautiously opening itself up, adding little nuances and quirks to the sound that make for an endlessly compelling listen that it is easy to find yourself get lost within as you carefully uncover its secrets. The track almost feels like a journey as much as anything else, unravelling as you delve deeper into its beautiful depths, guided by Emily’s ever-engaging vocals.

This concept of beauty is explored further on ‘When This Is Over’, as the artist traverses themes of growth and transformation. The instrumentation remains as alluring as ever on the track, but there is a real sense of something building and gaining in intensity throughout the track, before giving way to almost silence aside from the artist’s delicate vocals, providing a really cathartic feel. The contrast between this moment and the EP’s more textured and full soundscapes makes for a real moment of rawness and vulnerability that feels as impactful as the most gorgeous or spellbinding of passages.

The EP closes with the more stripped-back ‘Arms of Mine’, with the artist’s vocals largely accompanied by an acoustic guitar as the rest of the sound slowly sweeps its way in. Whether the artist’s sound is opting for a more full-bodied, jazz-influenced style or a more conventional indie folk nature, there is just something endlessly mysterious and transfixing about the work, compelling in its subtleties and nuance while packing an earnest charisma that feels organic and real throughout, with this track exemplifying the dichotomy of the sound and ending the listening experience in stirring and thoughtful fashion.

Emily Manuel has mastered her own unique style on this EP, with each track having its own distinctive flavour and appeal but having that unique bit of  Emily Manuel DNA running throughout it that makes them feel specifically her own. While the artist is endlessly talented in her own right, it is with the help of Christine Palmer on brass, Russick Smith on strings and Adriana Perez on drums that the sounds really sparkle and come to life, packed full of quirks and fun little moments that you’d have to go back and listen to multiple times to catch every minute detail that makes the tracks feel so vibrant and full of life. Genres like jazz, indie folk and classical are packaged together here in a fashion that feels seamless and engrossing, with the track’s durations flying by thanks to their flowing, seamless nature and artistic flair. Live Forever is a stunning collection of tracks that stick to you and almost feel like living, breathing things, as the artist’s sweeping and often haunting sound adventures and swells before you, demanding your undivided attention.