In a world of alt-folk sameyness, where uplifting and bombastic are the rule, Rodgers is deliberate and intense, quiet and bookish. And it’s in its very quiet intensity that this music commands a listener’s full attention. On paper, Rodgers’ music might seem to add up to folk or alt-country: A band with guitars, a pedal steel, some fiddles here and there. But in practice, you’re as likely to pick up on an undercurrent of shoegaze, chamber pop, even post-rock. The violins oscillate under Rodgers’ melodies, more Dirty Three than country. The pedal steel soars. Guitar solos take on lives of their own.
It’s fair to look at the music as a product of Rodgers’ unconventional writing -- she’s an English professor, and looks to literary sources for inspiration. Low comes to mind as a reference point; so does Tara Jane O’Neil. Rodgers’ songs don’t traffic in cliches, and she doesn’t overdo it as a lyricist. She avoids the temptation to try to cram too many words into a phrase; there’s a palpable confidence in her deliberate delivery. Rodgers takes her words seriously, and wants you to, too.
Emily Rodgers’ songs generally aren’t happy -- there’s no reason to pretend they are. But in their contemplative melancholy, there’s also a thread of fearlessness. Uplift and bombast may be the rage these days, but as Emily Rodgers makes clear, there’s something to be said for courage, contemplation and taking the time to let the words sink in. Why create more of the same when you can create something as beautiful as this?