Fan-funded album explores growing up

Features Editor Charlotte Kyle writes the CD reviews.

You never realize just how loyal a fanbase is until you start asking for money.
New Jersey rocker Val Emmich asked his fans to help fund his new album using a Kickstarter campaign. Fans could donate any amount they wanted to and receive rewards based on the amount they donated.
These rewards ranged from the simple “receive the album when it comes out” option to having Emmich fly wherever you wanted to play a private acoustic concert.
Emmich’s initial goal of $7,000 was reached in less than 24 hours. After that the musician increased the goal so physical CDs and vinyls could be released.
In the month of July Emmich successfully raised $15,206 from 220 backers. All backers will be thanked in the liner notes of the album.
Is that not the coolest prize? Who hasn’t always dreamed of being thanked in the liner notes? It is something to check off my non-existant bucket list, that’s for sure.
Emmich recorded the album in seven days, mixed it in three and emailed the digital files to backers a week later. It was his goal to release an album that sounds like his live show, and the rules Emmich followed to achieve this make the album worth a listen.
Because he didn’t have time to fiddle with the recordings, the sound is more organic and raw than his previous work. The album features no keyboard, no overdubbing on his vocals and eight of the 10 tracks are longer than four minutes.
Thematically the album is structured to not only return you to his childhood but to reflect on the past in a way which forces you toward the present. So often nostalgia in music is simply about being stuck in those memories but Emmich embraces his history to interpret the present and pave a way for the future.
“Aide Memoire” begins with “When I Grow Up (Prologue),”?a sweet and simple track which transports you back into the innocent mind set of a child.
The use of harmonica on the track, paired with an acoustic guitar and quiet, meek vocals much different from Emmich’s usual powerhouse wails, keeps the listener in that mentality throughout the track.
“I?keep my big plans inside til the teacher asks of us, ‘If you could be most anything what would you be when you grow up?’”?Emmich sings sweetly. “And I?tell her it’s all in place / I will fix the human race with love.”
This song transitions perfectly into “Expecting,”?my favorite track from the album. It sounds like tracks from his first full-length, “Slow Down Kid,”?and this recollective essence paired with a repeated lament of “I?feel so old” gives me chills.
By the end he has tied it together, reassuring the listener that “you’re not alone.”
These themes come back in some manner throughout each track organically – it never feels repetitive but simply mirrors the weight of adulthood that rests on your shoulders.
“A Punch” is experimental and rough, with Emmich using his voice in another manner he typically shies away from. The rawness combined with his low octave gives almost a growl to every syllable while hard pounding drums emphasize the frustration toward getting older.
The album ends with the longest track, “There’s A Hope.”?The eight-and-a-half minute song manages to take the listener on a journey of self-deprecation and doubt, all while acknowledging that no matter how bad things get there is always the need to keep going.
The song closes the album just as an artist does a concert, including a two-minute instrumental solo that builds the song to its highest point.
When Emmich’s voice finally returns it is softer and you can hear the hope as he sings “I get so much love inside this little life, giving some back is only right.”
“Aide Memoire” will be available in September at valemmich.com.
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