Ever since Emma Kupa saw the phrase Standard Fare on the side of a bus in Newcastle, she has been finding different outlets for her songwriting. There was the near decade and two albums of Standard Fare, which ended on a high in 2013, and since then Mammoth Penguins, Mammoth Penguins & Friends, The Hayman Kupa band, a stint playing bass in Suggested Friends, and dotted between them all are the solo records. There’s something intriguing about an artist you know under so many guises, choosing the records on which to daub their own name. Five years on from the first Emma Kupa record, the intriguing six-track Home Cinema, released on wiaiwya and now long sold out, comes a debut album of sorts, It Will Come Easier. The record is released tomorrow on Fika Recordings and Palo Santo, and ahead of that we’re premiering it here today.
While It Will Come Easier might sound like a somewhat timely title, it was actually written some years ago. Only now, after giving the record some much needed emotional space, is it being shared with the world. It is a record set in the musically under-explored world of a person’s early 30s, a time when reality collides with expectation, and the two try desperately to reach some sort of balance. Throughout the album, Emma seems to be trying to find that place, learning to accept that logic sometimes wins out over impulse and finding a way to be comfortable with not achieving everything you dreamed of. Discussing the inspiration behind the album, Emma explains it, “explores aspects of love, escapism and fidelity, but there’s also a thread about accepting feelings of hopelessness when you don’t quite meet the many pressures of life’s expectations”.
Although a solo album, It Will Come Easier is actually one of Emma’s most collaborative and instrumentally expansive records to date, seeing her work with bandmates from Suggested Friends and Mammoth Penguins, along with a vast array of other collaborators. The result is a record that seems to flit quickly between genres from Americana numbers, like recent single Nawlins, surely designed for campfire sing-alongs, to the almost trad-folk of the violin led masterpiece, Hey Love. There’s even room for a glorious piece of soft-rock, on the Kevin Morby-like, No Easy Way Out, with its bombastic guitar-line and propulsive slinky bass-line.
Lyrically, It Will Come Easier seems to cover many aspects of life, from struggling relationships to working yourself to an early grave, yet there’s a thread of directionless running throughout, a feeling of being unsure whether to stick or twist, to cling onto the artist’s life or let it slide away. You can feel Emma’s mind racing on Hey Love, when she asks, “when our eyes are straying, do we stay, love, do we keep it together?” The track ultimately concludes with clinging on to what you’ve got, “it’s all in the mornings, when we wake up to each other’s warmth, and remember that we’re not alone”. That sense of stasis and being insecure with security is mirrored in the thematically different, No Easy Way Out, when reflecting on her life choices, Emma notes, “they say adjust your expectations, take note of all that you’ve achieved. I can’t help feeling like a failure and I still believe”. The album concludes, fittingly inconclusively on Crying Behind The Marquee, to a backing of meandering piano, Emma seems to resolved to move on, “confronted with the past, and it’s not gonna get over itself, or the decisions I had to make”. While moving on with your life is often presented as a line-in-the-sand, here the reality is laid bare, try as you might, the past is part of who you are, “the decisions that cause such pain” are made, all you can do is learn to live with them, and allow life to continue despite them.
For all the struggles, at the heart of this record about life’s struggles is a belief things can get better, presented in the title, It Will Come Easier, as Emma explains, “the hope in the title is important to me – it is something I try to hold onto when things feel difficult”. It Will Come Easier isn’t a road map to your early 30’s, it’s a helping hand encouraging you to find your own path, a beacon of hope held by someone who made it through, and created something wonderful along the way.