Scenes from a life under stress unfold on the engrossing Another Wave Is Coming, spotlighting the experiences of a stranger in a strange land — or in the case of New Zealand’s Emily Edrosa, more than one strange land. Whether resisting the social and educational norms of her home or navigating life in a new country, Edrosa details her struggles, and reluctance, to fit in with honesty and unsparing wit.
After nearly a decade fronting the band Street Chant, Edrosa pulled up stakes and relocated to Los Angeles in 2016, looking for a fresh start, although this new beginning included taking a dead-end day job as she worked on the songs for Another Wave Is Coming. The constant tension between elusive fulfillment and drearier reality underpins her restless compositions, seeming to inform the very sound of the music. Suggesting a snarkier, less-ingratiating cousin of Australian Courtney Barnett, she sings with a sharp Kiwi twang that can come off as sardonic to American ears — even when the earnest lyrics indicate otherwise — and her confessional tunes feel like folk music injected with a double shot of New Wave electricity. Edrosa plays everything but drums herself, yet there’s none of the stilted vibe often accompanying a DIY approach. These catchy tracks pulse with rock-and-roll vitality, especially when her exciting rhythm guitar sets the pace.
Looking back, Edrosa studies her fraught relationship with the New Zealand school system on the snappy “NCEA” (National Certificate of Educational Achievement), noting, “They’ve got plans and university common sense,” and adding flippantly, “And I’ve got plans / I plan to pace around the room.” (Or flee to Los Angeles someday, perhaps.) Elsewhere, the morose “She Agreed” draws on deep sorrow and anger in recalling a relationship doomed by a girlfriend’s homophobic parents, abetted by their compliant daughter. When Edrosa quietly declares, “At least I’m free from all that,” only to admit, “I refuse to pretend that I don’t hate all of them,” the profound heartache is palpable.
Tracks reflecting Edrosa’s more recent life reveal a sturdier spirit, though she never pretends to have anything figured out. The soaring “Drinking During the Day” offers a more distanced perspective on romantic disaster, pushing back against depression, while “Hollywood Dream Trip” dreamily considers “that same old fight, to have a new belief,” continuing wryly, “But I just get on the bus and fall asleep.” From “A New Career,” where she tersely observes, “Sometimes I think we’re dead,” to the jangly “Springtime’s Stranger in a Strange Place,” where she says, “Now I know how it feels to never feel good or bad,” Edrosa is consumed by hunger for something more, without knowing exactly what that means.
Bracingly direct, Another Wave Is Coming has the urgency of breaking news or unfiltered blog entries as she lays out her messy, unresolved feelings. “When Our Brains Betray Us,” the anxiety-ridden closing number that supplies the album’s title, amps up the uncertainty, proclaiming, “Nothing’s gonna save us now … Better run for cover.” Her Los Angeles experiment apparently over, Emily Edrosa recently returned to New Zealand, so hopefully more intriguing updates from this stormy life are in the works.