Video: Emily Jane White, “Dark Undercoat” + FADER 51 Gen F

January 31, 2008

As you will see after the jump (IF YOU DARE), our recent Gen F on Emily Jane White is titled What Lies Beneath and talks much about her brooding album Dark Undercoat. This new Cam Archer-directed video puts into moving pictures what we put into words. Enjoy both and pick up White's album from Double Negative.

The silence and sorrow of Emily Jane White

Story by Daniel Arnold

Photography by Theo Rigby

After months living among goats in a tent
on a Northern California apple orchard, Emily Jane White is back in her mom’s Fort Bragg living room. White’s orchard stay was preceded by college in the treehouse campus at UC Santa Cruz, nearly a year bumming around Bordeaux, and a stint in Sebastopol blasting through songs with local fixture John Courage. But it is here in her mother’s house—surrounded
by a giant amethyst, a disembodied Buddha head and other esoterica accumulated during her merchant marine father’s travels—that the 26-year-old folk whisperer does her best work.

“When I came back from France I was totally broke, so I was living with my mom for nine months,” says White. “It was sort of a strong period of introspective, isolated reform. I was working so I could earn some money to move and I was just spending all my off-time with my four-track.” Quiet, rural resignation is all over the resulting record, White’s spare debut, Dark Undercoat. You can hear it in the weary way her husky whisper pitches and bends, overlapping itself until it is wind, strings, percussion and melody, all in a casual breath. You can hear it in how she sounds like she’s looking down and to the left with her eyes closed.

Beautiful as all that is, much of the attention that has been paid to White thus far fixates on similarities to early Cat Power albums. “A lot of
people get compared to Cat Power,” says White in her own defense. And though there are times when Emily Jane White does sound exactly like Chan Marshall, there’s more to her than quickdraw reference points. Writing White off as a copycat would be like skipping tacos because they basically have the same ingredients as burritos.

While Marshall rubs your face in her open wounds, creating intensely personal documents of her anguish, White gives her wounds names and turns them into living characters, able to break hearts or carry axes. She personifies and abstracts them. The result is more literary than the usual bad luck blues. On the album’s title track, White’s disappointment is a cowboy who rides out of town “to the sound of a bleeding ghost train.” Defeated, she confesses, I’m not strong and I’m not wide and I’m not long.

Whatever truth hides in Dark Undercoat is so vague that it remains in the eye of the beholder. It sleeps in the empty spaces between the notes heard in the living room during trips home. It’s your own truth. As White sings in the opening lyrics to “Wild Tigers I Have Known,” Silence is a power and a tool/ For you, for you.

Posted: January 31, 2008
Video: Emily Jane White, “Dark Undercoat” + FADER 51 Gen F