Empty Me beautifully balances Gabrielle Herbst's musical chops with modern songwriting that explores desire, loss, and a longing for deep, authentic human connection.
October 11, 2018 | by Dan Alvarez
Double Double Whammy
"Empty Me" is both a command and a state of being on classically-trained composer Gabrielle Herbst’s ornate second LP. The disc beautifully balances her musical chops with modern songwriting that explores desire, loss, and a longing for deep, authentic human connection.
All of these elements are written all over her operatic, flexible vocals — both in tone and in lyric. There’s a constant desire to connect, whether with an ex-lover on "Whole With You" or with herself on "Breath." Her battle against that ever-present emptiness injects gravity and urgency into her pristine, weightless compositions and forms the central tension of the record.
Speaking of arrangements, Herbst empties her heart into the disc’s lush, diverse instrumentation, created in collaboration with producer Eric Littmann and a talented chamber orchestra. Standout "Sleep" pairs her breathy falsetto with a creeping, delicate piano and swelling strings. The evocative "Naked" employs twisting violins to devastating effect, and the aptly-titled opener, "Ahhh," features some lovely, subtle harp droplets. In fact, some of the disc’s finest instrumentation comes without instruments at all — as she deftly layers her voice on top of itself on "Until the End" on "Let’s Not Exist" — both of which recall Julianna Barwick at her haunting best.
Perhaps most importantly, she consistently resists the urge to over-elaborate, always using her virtuosity in service of the song, not the other way around. In fact, that restraint is the key to Empty Me. It’s what elevates it from a gorgeous collection of sounds to an affecting, impactful project that says something specific and insightful about being alive in this present moment.
Stream the entirety of Empty Me