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Emily Reo's New Single "Balloon" Is Her Most Vibrant Pop Song Yet

Her new LP 'Only You Can See It' is the result of a decade making these wonderful, sleepwalking pop songs; it's colorful, buoyant, and unpredictable.

by Colin Joyce
Apr 1 2019, 4:00pm

Photo by Brian Vu

It has been a joy to watch Emily Reo grow. For over a decade now the songwriter and producer has been making brittle and brilliant pop songs, based around heavenward harmonies and kaleidoscopic synth lines. Those things have been constants, but pretty much everything else has changed since the first time I saw her play at a small bar in Orlando, Florida almost ten years ago. She was opening for Washed Out then, which made sense for the hazy, otherworldy music she was making then. It was all gesture and swoon, and the climax of her set was a cover of Built to Spill's "Car." When she sang the bit about wanting to see movies of her dreams, it seemed like a mission statement for the whole project at the time. It was dreamy and diffuse.

But over the years, her vision has gotten a lot more vivid, and all the colors of her songs have become more defined. First with her 2013 Olive Juice, then a 2016 EP called Spell and now with her new album Only You Can See It (out April 12 on Carpark), her ascendant vision has crystallized into these vibrant, kinda proggy pop songs. It's kinda fun to go back and listen linearly—you can see the vision start to unfold. The spirit's there from the beginning, but you hear her start to learn more tricks (and acquire new gear) and further flesh out the biodiversity of her arrangements. The ideas first expressed in looped layers like that "Car" cover picked up new depth in the vocoded bliss of "Spell." Those themes pick up even more depth in the single she's releasing today, "Balloon."

Like the other bits she's shared from Only You Can See It, it's full of the same buoyant spirit that's filled her songs to date, but there's so much going on. There's colorful vocoding, overlapping harmonies, martial drumming, and a whole lot of overlapping synth work. It's almost too much information to track at once, so you can sorta cross your eyes at it, and let the psychedelic bliss pop out at you—like a magic eye poster. It's a far cry from the dreary solo performance in which I first encountered her music, which only makes it feel more wonderful and unpredictable. So listen to it here, then listen to the decade of songs that preceded it over at her Bandcamp page as you wait for Only You Can See It.

Emily Reo Tour Dates:
4/3 - Orlando, FL @ Stardust Lounge &
4/4 - Gainesville, FL @ The Atlantic &
4/12 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
4/13 - Los Angeles, CA @ Junior High * +4/14 - San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord *
4/16 - Portland, OR @ Turn Turn Turn * ^
4/17 - Tacoma, WA @ Real Art * ^
4/18 - Seattle, WA @ Woodland Theater * ^
4/24 - Washington, D.C. @ Comet Ping Pong *
4/26 - Brooklyn, NY @ Baby's All Right * +
4/27 - Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA*
4/28 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Roboto Project
4/29 - Cleveland, OH @ Mahall's Locker Room *
4/30 - Chicago, IL @ The Hideout *
5/1 - Detroit, MI @ Marble Bar *
5/2 - Toronto, ON @ Burdock *
5/3 - Montreal, QC @ La Sotterenea *
5/4 - Boston, MA @ Lilypad *

& w/ Batry Powr
* w/ Foxes In Fiction
^ w/ Ancient Pools

+ Only You Can See It Record Release show