Avalon Emerson – & the Charm: Review

Explorative and melancholic, Avalon Emerson takes what she has learned via making music and performing music since first tapping into it at an early age, eventually leading to her delivering a fantastic debut with & the Charm. It isn’t a reflection of histrionics and more so a tempered and expansive POV into the mind of someone who aims to take that next step in musical creation, furthering from the more House/Dance aesthetics of past EPs – fewer vocals, more dance grooves – tapping into the corners of varying sub-genres of Electronic music. In doing so, Avalon Emerson continues to dig deeper into the performative aspect of creating an album, one where she doesn’t have to thoroughly rely on the production to form a sense of being as a means for the listener to get instantly catapulted into a positive stupor emboldened by vibes. As you hit play, you get lost within this wormhole of Electronica, some Trance, and Ambient, that Avalon Emerson weaves, allowing us to dig deeper into the complexions of her artistry and sense how poignant her songwriting is.

& the Charm isn’t your ordinary electronic album. It’s composed within this world where the cross-fading mixture isn’t as important as letting the music smooth over as it reflects its themes beyond a danceable mode through viscerally moody vocal performances. It isn’t so much this curated, eclectic mix of songs that fits the specific flow conjectured between genres, whether going from pop or funk to some form of spacey House music or just a mix of tracks that only have an underlying dance motif instead of something viscerally thematic. It takes a more realized approach to a direct conceptual journey you embark on but never truly tire of. When it comes to albums that are the opposite, like from more producer-driven musicians, it can sometimes feel overly hokey, and more often than not, its misses standout out more than the hits. It’s a fundamental distinction that allows Electronic music to have clearer blank canvases to weave their instrumental technical magic from all corners and create something that sounds everlasting, and that’s what we get with & the Charm.

Avalon Emerson doesn’t try to hide within the production despite a few instrumental breaks. She’s letting her vocals become a potent piece of the puzzle – something that envelops the route she set up for herself to through, particularly setting up a melancholic consistency where the vibes become a potent strong point. It’s one thing to get lost in the vibe of the music, almost forgetting that certain parts don’t work entirely, but it’s another when it hits the proper parameters toward what works and doesn’t work for the listener. Though more of something that’s deriving from a personal vibe, it’s very much universal with its sonic appeal that one mustn’t take away from the best element within & the Charm: the live instrumentations, which brings a grounded sense of reality, especially as you heard Emerson sing and create these songs that feel more confined to the roots of intimate pop music than the more esoteric, colorful dancefloor vibe we’ve gotten from various artists, like Nia Archives and Pretty Girl. The eclectic bass grooves bring an emphasis to the subtle dance notes guiding the chillness of the songs, and the music benefits highly from it.

Lyrically, Avalon Emerson treads some familiar thematic territory we’ve heard countless times, but she takes it upon herself to take a differentiating approach instead of being too straightforward and simple. It’s like listening to her perform out of a journal filled with poems that beautifully capture emotional depth within more drawn-out and stylistically atmospheric melodies that boast these notes emphasizing loneliness, love, relationships, and time, particularly how it can shift perspectives on the needs and wants of oneself, through the vocals and production. However, some songs feel more played down and derivative to a fault. It’s like she’s trying to find equilibrium within certain textures, that it rarely dips towards new vocal territory – for the most part, Avalon Emerson finds ways to make it have character, unlike the slightly repetitive  “Hot Evening.” Despite this, running at nine songs, and 40 minutes, it’s more compact as it finds meaning within the conjectures of sound and emotionally resonant performances, whether behind the boards or the microphone. In doing so, it helps build a clear distinction between effectiveness, specifically with its stylistic approach to the melancholy vibes of the final product. It’s what makes “A Vision” more of a standout than “Hot Evening” and “Karaoke Song,” such a hypnotically smooth and empathetically curious performance.

Going into & the Charm, I knew little, having only heard Avalon Emerson’s DJ-Kicks album, but as I kept digging and exploring the caverns of these nine songs, there wasn’t a moment I was bored. It’s captivatingly consistent in vibe and tone, circumventing genre exploration for a direct flow. It’s nontangential, but that isn’t to say it lack depth. There is a lot moving with greatness, from the lyrics to the performance; it opens the door for it to become realized with a sense of personable relativity. I couldn’t recommend this more than the score I give. It was a significant surprise for me, one where I didn’t want to press pause, so there is no denying this is staying in my rotation.

Rating: 9 out of 10.