Hear First: Stella Emmett’s Admirer

An album premiere, plus some thoughts from Emmett herself on admiring the world from your bedroom window.

Hear First is Talkhouse’s series of album premieres. Along with streams of upcoming albums — today’s is Stella Emmett’s Admirer — we publish statements from artists and their peers about the mindsets and impressions that go into, or come out of reflection on, a record. Here, Emmett writes about admiring the world from her bedroom window (accompanied by illustrations from James Fitzpatrick) playing off the title of the new album, which you can listen to right here.
—Annie Fell, Talkhouse Associate Editor

If I have a still moment, especially at night, especially with the right music, I can hold time in my hands like a smooth orb. I can return to the other side of the bedroom window and take a breath there. I can hear the humming tree frogs of rural Connecticut, feel the yellow carpet under my bare toes. I remember, with infinite fondness, journaling in bed as the sun set. My mother in her room downstairs, my sister occasionally just down the hall. My dad in his house only 15 or 20 minutes down the road. I have only begun to grieve the passing of this time in my life — and for me it is a profound loss, the greatest loss I have experienced yet. Not life altering like a death, but unsettling like a family secret. 

How could I have known how swiftly my life was going to change? Maybe a part of me did sense it — I cried so hard at graduation I surprised myself. It was a blunt and awkward ending, my family arriving as if in a dream from all across the country, and vanishing just as fast. And then college was over. Through it all, one thought: Where does this fit into the story of my life? 

Tonight, all over the world, millions of girls will look out through their bedroom windows and think a million different things about the world outside. I picture them like owls peering out from softly illuminated burrows in trees, the woods thick and dark all around, but each girl safely within her own small, warm world. Surrounded by books and journals and paints. The way it should be. 

In still moments, when I can hold time in my hands like a smooth orb, I never fail to find myself back inside this bedroom — the room where I became myself. Don’t we always go back to the places that made us? The places that reveal who we really are and what we really want? Maybe what I’ve always wanted, despite my best efforts, is to return to the other side of the glass — to remain a watcher, an admirer. 

(Photo Credit: left, Joseph Charles Viola; right, Lucie Murphy; illustrations, James Fitzgerald)

Two summers ago, Stella Kortchmar started making Admirer. Kortchmar and co-producer Mike Dvorscak knew they wanted to make a full-length electronic pop record, a collection of songs tied to the better parts of the warmer months. Between Albany and White Plains, New York, the duo spent the long summer days writing, recording, and polishing the LP while following a recipe: Build the songs up, strip them back down, add extra ingredients (harmonies, synth pads, collegiate samples) with ease and purpose. Most importantly, indulge in the collaborative nature of it all. The outcome is a tiered cake, nuanced, layered, and light — familiar in structure and unique in taste.

Admirer thrives on a relaxed kind of energy, the kind that kicks in from lounging around in the late afternoon and remembering you’ve got plans in a few hours. Optimism is dripping from every surface like cave stalactites during a heatwave: “DayDream” is for letting go of a fantasy when reality has caught up to it; “Out Of Town” is for holding on to a partner to escape problems at home. Silver linings are in high supply — you just have to listen for them.

Additionally, the recipe called for outside talent. In the words of Kortchmar, “When you’re unsure of where a song is headed, the best thing to do is bring someone else in.” Admirer features the varied stylings of indie pop summoner Half Waif, guitar mages Blue Ranger and Russel the Leaf, and Devoye, a jack-of-all-trades on the 1s and 2s. Just as the middle months colored the entire record, the guest musicians color the middle third of the album, right when Kortchmar and Dvorscak find their spot in the sunlight. The record closes out with “Haircut,” a reserved goodbye and a reminder, ultimately, that you can always create your own warmth if the cold’s not cutting it.

Together Kortchmar and Dvorscak form the production duo “beachball” — of which Admirer is the first fully realized project.

(Photo Credit: Joseph Charles Viola)