Emilie Modaff’s debut EP “Clean House” is a love letter for the self-care they’ve learned, the potential they’re cultivating, and the struggle that opened them up to the newest version of themself stares in from outside the window.
Those pains, though, take a back burner here to a celebration of tools towards recovery and polymath talents. Clean House represents less the completion of a task and more of the realization that comes with, excuse me, a clean house: the furniture can go anywhere, the walls can be painted, and we are starting off fresh. The house holds the future we’re dreaming and nowhere is that more evident than on the opening track, “Hollow,” with its gentle country strains.
Modaff singing “I belong here, I do / it’s possible to embrace yourself.” More than a simple anthem of success, each hope and each victory is tempered with the knowledge that a journey is made of steps and this was only one step and who knows which the next one will be?
Going to the back to the end of the album for the first song recorded with Mykele Deville,. “Hip Blossoms” you can hear the influences and initiations for most of “Clean House.” Soft blues and and indie-rock (there’s a shared ground with Vagabon) form foundations here, but what we’re hearing in full here is an artist coming into their own confidence and experimenting with their sounds through simple lenses.
This brings forth the greatest strength of Emilie’s work, emotionally and musically: they’re not afraid of failing and they know it teaches them more than success. The breadth of experience reflected and immediately qualified defines for us the degree of depth that is belied by some clever hooks and jarringly brilliant soundalikes that carries you right over those hooks to the point.
On “Stamina,” for example, “Just when you can’t stand it now/ you go and get some stamina.” Marry the problem acoustically to the solution. We see something new, we understand in our bodies what stamina means.
Of course, again, Hip Blossoms is still a stand out track, but it shows us the old testing ground. And in some capacity “Clean House” is also a testing ground. Modaff tries ideas left and right and most of them aren’t developed beyond a song (excepting the building climax and repetition, but don’t try to at me over self-care mantras).
But like, how should I care? Emilie’s bravery to confront their own doubts in public, while maintaining this endearing optimism makes the bitterness (“Aquarius”) viable and well-earned. Meanwhile, “Clean House” shows us a Modaff who keeps challenging and pushing their self, personally and artistically. This album isn’t just a statement: it’s a clarion call of things on the way.