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Emma Townshend

Country of origin:


Type of music generally:

Evocative/eclectic-based, jazz-flavoured piano pop


First album, Winterland (1998)

See also:

Wikipedia's entry on Emma Townshend


Tori Amos, Veda Hille

I think she's a cross between Tori Amos and Fiona Apple, with a little Mary Margaret O'Hara thrown in. (

Covers/own material:

Own, plus has set a poem by Emily Dickinson as the intro song to Winterland

General comments:

I really thought she sounded kind of like a combination of Tori Amos (probably because of the piano tinklings) and Veda Hille. Her voice has a certain quality to it that I can't describe as *raspiness*, but maybe *dustiness*—if you have any idea at all what I might mean. ;-). Emma's songs seem rather...ummmm...scrambled (?)...meaning the kind you don't just pick up and sing along easily with—many of Tori's and Veda's songs strike me the same way. (

Yes, I know what Riphug means by the dusty quality in her voice. It makes it a little more interesting to me, but hers isn't a pure voice. Her songs are quirky both in their construction and in her vocalizations and lyrics so they're pretty interesting to listen to. The instrumentation is understated and so in some ways are the songs—while she has Tori Amos' open sense of how to put a song together, she doesn't have any of Tori's theatricality. Meth's Mary Margaret O'Hara comparison seems to me quite apt: like O'Hara, Emma Townshend's music is odd, quirky pop with interesting melodies. Overall I think she's an artist I will continue to follow. (Neile)

Emma Townshend doesn't work for me at all. (

I personally think she's more of a jazz artist than anything else. That's the way in which her piano playing leans...her songs have sort of obscure lyrics sometimes that often end up only coming together once looked at in the context of the printed words in the booklet, but she also has a bit of electronic processing to her album as's not really anywhere near the kind of processing Imogen Heap's album got, since Emma is an altogether different kind of songwriter. Her songs are less about dynamics and emotional surges like Imogen's, and more about moods and statements and, in a disconnected way, time. Her voice was described by Riphug as "dusty", and I'd agree with's not a traditionally pretty voice...hers is the voice of a witch who has just been given back her youth and beauty. She rocks too.
     I'd say her album is definitely worth having, but I also already adore it...I'll admit Emma had to grow on me a bit, but I read a review of her album that proposed she is to be appreciated like fine wine, and I believe that now. I knew there was something incredible in there, I just had to dig a bit...Imogen Heap knocked me over the head with her awesomeness right off the bat. If the two girls were mediaeval weapons, Imogen would be some kind of bludgeoning instrument, and Emma would be a thin little assassin's dagger. It's all about raw, in-your-face vibes vs. subtle, refined points. :D (John.Drummond)

Recommended first album:

Winterland only album to date




Release info:

1998—eastwest (Warner)—62174-2



Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Emma Townshend—vocals, piano, tuneless violins, accordion, bowed guitars [and who knows what else because I can't find it listed in the booklet]

Guest artists:

Dylan Rippon—extra spine-chilling guitars, groovy-ultra-organ, ghost world, vocals
Cass—live drums on a hot day

Produced by:

Dylan Rippon and Ross Collum


It's pretty good, in my opinion. The Tori Amos influence is to my ears the most prominent—lots of busy piano and stream of consciousness lyrics—although it does venture into more ambient areas at times. (

My two cents is that I like it. I think it's going to grow on me and become a regular listen for a while. I bought it on the strength of "The Last Time I Saw Sadie". She has an interesting and palatable voice. Her songwriting is quite nice for a first effort. This CD stands on its own merit, but I think it shows potential for some nice future efforts, too. (

The song that most makes me hit "replay" is "Five-A-Side Football" because it's so catchy (after that is "The Last Time I Saw Sadie"), but I like this entire album. Some of it is quite subtle and it definitely takes more than one or two listenings to appreciate but it's not particularly an acquired taste—I found it instantly likable. (Neile)

Emma Townshend is Pete Townshend's daughter, and the cover of her album shows her pouting at the camera against a purple background, her lips rouged, her blue eyes wide and capturing the reflected corona. Not being a particular afficiando of the Who, and distrusting ad campaigns that trumpet nepotism, I steered clear of this one for a while. But something attracted me to it. The song titles were intriguing: "My Angel of Vertigo", "Ghost Kitchen". When I found it used I snatched it up, bearing in mind that one of the best purchases I'd recently made was the Rufus Wainwright. But Townshend's debut eclipses Wainwright's. People will be comparing her to Tori Amos and Kate Bush again, but she's smarter and bitchier than either of them. Like Kate Bush, her voice is delicate and twee, quite in the realm of the English Thrush. And indeed, the first song off the album, "Better Than Music", starts off with tentative ivory-tinkles, soaring, Faeries-in-the-Garden twittering, and the text of a poem by Emily Dickinson(!) It's pretty, and dangerously precious. But the next song—"The Last Time I Saw Sadie"—positively spits in the face of the Delicate Woman Child image. Against a whining guitar, and late '80s quasi-goth synth strings, Townshend describes the persona of a woman wallowing in misanthropy. This bitchy loser obsesses over a starlet, who's "told much in the Sun." "I'm collecting bits of paper/for my psycho-bedroom/ something came, and made me a little Hinckley/I paper it with her, my Goddess..." her voice dripping with acid sarcasm. No, this isn't a twee little girl. This isn't even someone you want to know. The next song, "Walk at Night" has our heroine walking in dark, but this is no June girl fantasy. It's the delicious, nasty walk home after a night of cheap, fun sex; about feeling kinship to Genet's criminals and the freedom of one's darkside. Nothing ethereal here, except the music itself. But Townshend reveals her true brilliance with the next song, "Ghost Kitchen". With its eerie, sampled ambience juxtaposed against her by-now distinctive glistening piano trills, this song is somewhere between Kate Bush and Lamb. The lyrics compare the creation of heroin with the creation of art. "We're making poison—it's just a risk that we all take...I said, 'You junkies, you are children.' Not even with their science can they understand my art...". It's one the creepiest, and best executed songs I've heard. The rest of the album is good—displaying not only her caustic knowing images but also her profiency on guitar, violin and accordion. This album reminds of Rickie Lee Jones' Pirates in its mixture of toughness and lyricism. (

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Entry last updated 2012-05-20 13:56:58.
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