This is an entry in an ongoing series for 303 Magazine, which will provide a range of local album reviews. It is our intention to highlight the talents of local musicians, whether veterans to the industry or newcomers. Like the bands, the album can be fresh or something we just haven’t had the power to take off repeat in the past few months. Check out previous entries in the series here.
Like your favorite perfume, Emma Mayes & The Hip’s Little Black Thoughts lingers in your mind with a subtle sweetness that only gets better with time. Comprised of eight of Denver’s finest musicians, Emma Mayes & The Hip features powerhouse vocalist Emma Mayes and what she deems the “Highly Important People” — Alex Newton on guitar, Adam Landmark on bass, Ryan Bannigan on the drums, Miles McKee on the tenor saxophone, Matt Wilkolak playing the trumpet and trombone, and Elyse Midgyett and Teresa Suydam on supporting vocals. While some may shudder at the logistics of a band this large, Emma Mayes & The Hip prove that more is better. With their seamlessly blended talent showcased in Little Black Thoughts, Emma Mayes & The Hip showed Denver how big band style music is properly done.
Instead of overpowering the listener with elements from every instrument, Emma Mayes & The Hip serve Little Black Thoughts like a well balanced five-star dish. Each flavor is properly introduced at just the right time. The horns compliment Emma Mayes’ serenading vocals without demanding the attention of the entire song. Supporting vocalist Elyse Midgyett and Teresa Suydam add a dynamic element to the experience, bringing depth and a well-rounded sound to each track. Each artist introduces their own unique touch to the body of work in a way that continually elevates the EP, not overwhelms it. The result is a soul-packed, five-song EP that leaves a lasting impression and addictive listening experience that’s hard to ignore.
Little Black Thoughts is the first EP release from this Denver-based band, and it’s left us wondering, “how the hell did we go so long without it?” Starting the soulful addiction with “Who,” Emma Mayes & The Hip waste no time with pleasantries. Jumping right into the heart of it, Emma Mayes reflects on the lingering questions that fill our thoughts between the repetitive habits we abide by. Chanting various questions that lead with “who,” Emma Mayes reflects, “Who’s going to share my forever?” among other internal questions we find ourselves longing the answers for.
Little Black Thoughts picks up the tempo for the danceable tracks “Trade it All” and “Bend Your Alibi” before taking a moment to breathe with the painfully relatable and personal EP favorite, “I’m Fine.” The empathetic and authentic interpretation of the emotions many of us are facing hits close to home. Emma Mayes’ dreamy vocal delivery mixed with the introspective instrumentals perfectly deliver the message and convey the feeling the lyrics touch on with poise. Coming to a close with “Little Brown Dot,” Emma Mayes & The Hip bare their raw emotions with a refreshing honesty that every artist strives for. For Emma Mayes & The Hip, Little Black Thoughts hit authenticity right on the head. For bringing to the table what every artist strives for in their first EP, Emma Mayes & The Hip are right on track for a promising artistic journey.