2015 has been a big year for Eskimeaux, the solo project of songwriter producer Gabrielle Smith. While she has been recording as Eskimeaux since 2007, this year marks the first time she has garnered wider recognition from her own music.
As a frequent collaborator and friend of bigger names in the lo-fi/bedroom pop world, like Frankie Cosmos and Mitski, Eskimeaux released her own album O.K. to an unforeseen amount of positive response. The release garnered critical acclaim, successfully catapulted her from the insular Brooklyn indie scene to a more nationally recognized Indie stage. NPR’s host of All Songs Considered, Bob Boilen, picked Eskimeaux’s album as one of his top 10 of the year along with bigger name acts like Courtney Barnett and Girlpool. Rolling Stone declared her one of the artists you need to know this year. Stereogum selected the album as their “album of the week” above more prominent artists The Tallest Man On Earth and Snoop Dog.
Yet with all of this publicity and high praise, it’s likely that most of you haven’t heard Esimeaux before. Luckily with music, it’s never too late to get started.
O.K. is a beautiful collection of eloquent and earnest bedroom-pop. The confessions she makes cut pretty deep, yet the precision with which she molds her lyrics into pristine melodies functions as a haunting juxtaposition to the darkness in her stories. Above a soundscape of beautifully layered keyboards and fuzzy guitars, Smith’s voice floats in a realm of its own—too present to be labeled ethereal yet too aloof to be fully comforting.
The breakout track from the album, “I Admit I’m Scared,” is a masterpiece in the art of understatement. Reworked from an earlier version of the same song, the version that appears on O.K. is a beautiful example of when music and lyrics come together to create something larger than the sum of their parts. The track begins with a nervous and unsteady confession, “I admit I’m scared.” A softly strummed banjo complements the naïve lyrics. Yet as the song continues and the narrator becomes more confident in her confession, booming percussion and guitars chime in to ensure the narrator’s intensity echoes out to the listener. There is a true beauty to Smith’s lyrical and musical method of storytelling – reminiscent of a film score. With a little luck and some excellent sync/licensing placement in the indie film/television world, Eskimeaux could easily become a household staple.
As we near the end of the year, it’s important to remember all of the things that stood out to us about the year. Music discovery is no exception. With an oversaturated market, it’s easy to miss something great and difficult to go back and revisit stuff you may have overlooked. Do not make that mistake with Eskimeaux. Go home, put on the record and give it the full listen that it deserves. You just might find that it sticks.