Song of the Day: Emma Lee Toyoda – Nünü

photo by Alley Rutzel

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Nünü” by Seattle’s Emma Lee Toyoda, from her 2016 debut album, sewn me anew, on Make Fart Records.

Emma Lee Toyoda – Nünü (MP3)Local singer Emma Lee Toyoda’s music is a compelling dichotomy. They embrace brevity with songs that sometimes tap out at 30-seconds, but also utilizes maximalist arrangements. Guitars, violins, banjos, keyboards, saxophones, and organs all grace the tracks on their debut, sewn me anew. That they and their band are able to tastefully arrange all these moving parts in these often brief spaces is a testament to their prowess — and they’re still in college. But beneath all of this is the foundation of Toyoda’s tender, thoughtful songwriting.

“Being in touch with my emotions and recognizing when I’m not okay is something I consider to be a strength, not a weakness,” Toyoda told us last month in their Local Artist Spotlight. Their candidness with their emotions heightens the music — quick flashes of a moment in time and passing feelings that are hard to describe. Each song on their record packs an emotional gut punch, “Nünü” especially.

There’s a haze that looms over the track. It swoons and wobbles, Toyoda’s voice wavering up and down alongside the fluttering string arrangements. “I have my reservations, but you won’t seem to take them,” they sing on the opening lines, before throwing in the kicker, “Honey pie, why do you lie?” The warm sound of her voice is both reassuring yet despondent. Toyoda hums and bellows, letting each note settle into the mix like a part of her DIY orchestra. It’s a lovely meditation on love, stewing in a hypnotic melancholy.

Toyoda and their band will be playing the Vera Project this Sunday, June 18, opening for Adult Mom and Free Cake For Every Creature. You can keep in touch on more of Toyoda’s happenings and future shows by following their Facebook page. In the meantime, check out the video for “Nünü” below.

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