A new semester has just begun. By this time every year, at which the summer heat continues to affect pretty much all parts of the country before the autumn, there is a set of memories from last year that still affects me in many ways. In the second semester of my first year in college, I had a crush on someone and got rejected when I tried to confess how I felt about him. In addition to the letdown of my first love, I could not get into my first choice of double major because my GPA was not high enough to satisfy the requirements. Moreover, there were a lot of times I felt so small and powerless because I often packed my schedule with so many tasks, events, and deadlines. Every time I felt devastated, I played the tracks on this album, sat in silence all by myself, and soon enough, I felt like time was slipping away. That is how I dealt with all my issues. Here is an album that will give you more time and space when you are in that kind of situation: Sewn Me Anew by Emma Lee Toyoda.
Emma Lee Toyoda is a Seattle-based Japanese Korean American singer-songwriter, who pursues a semi-nocturnal “sad girl rock” music style. In an interview with KEXP, a public radio station based in Seattle, Emma explained the reason she self-identified her music as “sad girl rock.” “I am a sad girl living in a sad world. It is what it is. My songs are sad because I am usually writing them out of a place of sadness. I struggle with depression and anxiety, which is not really acknowledged in Asian cultures and still has many stigmas attached in U.S. culture, so people tend to be very concerned when I say my music is sad girl rock?but it is okay to be sad! Being in touch with my emotions and recognizing when I am not okay is something I consider to be a strength, not a weakness.”
Her band released its first full LP, Sewn Me Anew, in December 2016. Most of the songs condensed in this 22-minute-long album are short, a little bit somber, and yet jam-packed with introspective lyrics that evoke strong imagery and emotions. Throughout Sewn Me Anew, she unearths a world of her own struggles, ideas, and mood and brings them back to the world. There lies a reason why whatever the length is, her music is full.
Opening with the lilting “Fuuuck,” a titled composition, Emma allows the listener to cast glances upon what Sewn Me Anew would like to convey in only 40 seconds. “Fuuuck” is followed by “Dream,” wherein Emma’s dreamy voice first appears. With the sound of the fiddle and the saxophone intensifying the melody, the outro of “Dream” ends with noisy electronic sound. Still, the juxtaposition of the ear-splitting electronic sound and Emma’s echoey voice makes this song more attractive. It directly slips into “Stop!” having the same loud and unharmonious sound in its intro. Anybody listening to “Stop!” would want to groove to the rhythm.
Melodies are stabilized at “Nunu” and “Pulling Hairs,” leaving lingering feelings for the songs even after they end. “Did U Like That Song?” comes in the middle, full of an unrecognizable melody lasting 33 seconds, but it seems like a perfect placement before getting to the point.
After “Did U Like That Song?,” narrative-style songs are featured one after another. The album’s emotion bursts into “Seasick” and “Forget Me Now” and nails it with “Lauren Lorelai” and “Saoirse’s.” The timber of Emma’s contemplative and ear-pleasing voice, with the band’s power of instrumental forces, has played a formidable role to evoke memories. Because of that, the songs are all set in a lovely and mystical mood.
For many of us, myself included, we ironically find ourselves becoming victims of our own schedules, our communication devices, people around us, and other duties and responsibilities. And while many of these things are supposed to be something that we do in order to be happy, we often get overwhelmed and caught up in our little lives. If a two-month-long vacation was not enough for you to recover and restore who you are, or the new semester has got you feeling like a bundle of nerves, take a gander at Sewn Me Anew and fully appreciate these moments.
I hope you take a deep breath and find your own peace. This will be a new chapter of your life that has just begun, and it will never be the same. As the name of the album suggests, you can get “sewn you anew.”
By Moon Chae-un
Editor of Culture Section