Personnel: Emma Pollock (vocals, guitar, dulcimer, piano, keyboards, xylophone); Paul Savage (guitar, keyboards, drums, percussion, programming).
Audio Mixer: Paul Savage.
Recording information: Chem19 Studios.
The third solo outing from the ex-Delgados vocalist, In Search of Harperfield is Emma Pollock's most revealing and adventurous set of songs to date, a lustrous and heartbreaking home movie of a record that makes aging, death, and melancholy feel positively vital. Pollock's post-Delgados output has kept mostly in line with the group's predilection for orchestral, cinematic post-rock, due in part to some pristine production and arranging work from husband and ex-Delgado Paul Savage, and the lovingly crafted In Search of Harperfield is no exception. Easily her finest work to date, the 11-track LP is as emotionally cohesive as it is narratively vague, with Pollock's rich and stately voice guiding the listener through a litany of hardships that touch on everything from illness and motherhood to the cruel slap of adolescence. Highlights, which include the dark, sumptuous opener "Cannot Keep a Secret," the equally grand yet far poppier "Don't Make Me Wait," the road- and radio-ready "Parks and Recreation," and the achingly beautiful "Dark Skies," the latter as good as anything the Delgados ever put to tape, feel lived in and loved, despite their undercurrents of despair. Pollock's voice, both vulnerable and commanding, has never sounded better, and her songwriting feels deeply personal yet untethered to the past, even as it name-checks the mile markers. Her quick turns of phrase and penchant for punctuating moments of self-doubt with colorful bits of impressionistic flair and left-field melodic rejoinders invoke names like Kate Bush, Nick Drake, and Sandy Denny, but the truth is, she's been perfecting her particular brand of moody, bucolic baroque pop for over two decades now, and with the marvelous In Search of Harperfield, that work has finally paid off. ~ James Christopher Monger