By Alistair Hume

Album Review: “Backyard Sailing” by Emma Park

Emma Park is the solo emo/math rock project of Dot Hollingshead, a recording artist originating from southern Utah and currently residing in Salt Lake City. “Backyard Sailing,” Emma Park’s first full album released through Arborist Records, is a record that’s jam packed with entertaining and articulate playing; a variety of different vibes; clever, intelligent lyrics; and a few references that can only be understood by a true Utahn.

The album kicks off with the feels inducing and melodic “Totesworth,” a fantastic instrumental whose vibe gives the album a start that accurately articulates the general feeling of the full work right off the bat.

Beyond this track, the album flows smoothly and cohesively, each track telling a different story of its own. Topics include heartbreak, anger, bitterness, and others familiar to the emo genre but presented with what I believe to be twice the passion of most emo bands and many unique metaphors throughout, not to mention the interesting use of Alan Watts voices samples.

Hollingshead’s lyrics also are truly brutally honest and I believe would leave listeners wondering about the people being addressed to in the songs and his actual experiences with them. All this truly puts Emma Park in a realm of individuality despite being so easily classifiable. Continually, the vocals are heartfelt and soothing with  infectious harmonies and moments of appropriately placed harshness.

The only criticism held for this artist is that if the project is to continue, they should definitely incorporate as many new ideas in the instrumental sense as possible whilst not losing touch of what made this work so great. Although the album is honestly excellent, the repetition — and the fact that the songs are mostly over five minutes — can make the listen a little bland, especially through a full listening session. Too much more of this would take away from what this album has to offer.

However, “Backyard Sailing” is a wonderful-quality, introspective, honest, interesting, and beautiful record. It’s very likely one of the strongest debut albums to be released anywhere in years, and I would recommend it to anyone.

“Backyard Sailing” is available online at, and CDs are available at Jazzy’s and Perks in Washington in the Arborist Records display cases.

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