The description “classical instrumentation, folk rawness and hip-hop production” coupled with “haunting” vocals sounds at first like the sort of breathless praise the Lana Del Rey hype machine has come up with, but in this case, we’re talking about Emily Wells, a singer who seems rather more real.
Wells, a Texas native, has drawn notice for the one-woman orchestra feel of her live shows, where she samples and loops herself. The singer, songwriter and violinest also reaped positive notices for her first album, 2008’s “The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties,” which prompted Spin magazine to describe her as “a feral, streetwise Nina Simone.”
We’re not so sure about the feral part, but there’s definitely a visceral feel to “Passenger,” the free song from “Mama,” Wells’ forthcoming sophomore album. It’s a lush song with layers of sweet, woozy strings carefully arranged over a deep, hypnotic rhythm as Wells sings in an alluring, just-woke-up voice.
“Mama” is due April 10 on Partisan, and Wells is at the top of the list of artists we want to see at SXSW in March.