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Only You Can See It

by Emily Reo

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about

Emily Reo imagined a series of humans, alone in movie theatres, watching their lives unfold on the screens. “No one else could see what they saw, or interpret things in the same way,” she explains, reflecting largely on the concept of perception and her song “In Theaters,” the stunning, final track on her forthcoming full-length. “Picture where you've been / only you can see it,” she self-harmonizes, later concluding that “our lives play in empty theaters.”

"Only You Can See It" is a devastatingly beautiful collection of prismatic pop songs reckoning with the complexity of self-possession. Following the release of her acclaimed 2013 full-length "Olive Juice," Reo spent five years writing, recording, arranging, producing and mixing these ten songs—at her apartment in Brooklyn, and at various studios and friends’ homes around New York. It’s her most intricate web of poetry yet, with prismacolor melodies winding through a vast pop vision. Reo employs her classical vocal training more than ever, her sweeping falsetto delivering doubletime verses brimming in metaphor and mesmerizing layered soundscapes alike.

For over a decade, Reo’s vocoder pop songs have played with the space between natural and metallic sounds—with every turn of her voice sounding sweeping, symphonic. Recording and touring independently since the release of 2009’s "Minha Gatinha," she’s continuously released a slow drip of pop experiments via artist-operated imprints. On her 2016 single “Spell,” Reo grappled with all-consuming anxiety, numbness and isolation; here, throughout her latest album, with alternating grace and playfulness, she maps out a constellation of lived experiences that brought her back to feeling herself—facing loss, heartbreak, and death, but also fighting for her health and independence.

Reo’s songs have always been imaginative, and here she considers the space between imagination and truth with a heightened sense of tension that seems to have been bubbling under the surface for a lifetime. There are self-combusting soaring synth riffs, sparseness and then engulfing chaos. Melodies that unfurl into melodies (some of which came to her in dreams). On “Candy”, she continues her inquiry into the artificial versus the organic, a song about digitally-facilitated relationships; through robot sounds, she wonders about the confusion of feeling close to someone through a screen, sung from the perspective of someone falling in love with a machine.

“Balloon” is the record’s most patiently unfolding mini-epic, one bursting with the enormous energy of an expanding heart; an ode to intuition and growth. It’s a song that eventually floats upward as Reo’s vocals criss-cross like a hypnotic choir-of-one, meditating on navigating multiple relationships, and the necessity of self-reliance as a prerequisite for them.

These are the first songs that Reo filled out with the help of a live band, multi-instrumentalists Jack Greenleaf and Felix Walworth, adding a visceral energy throughout, with unexpected builds and breaks. Featuring select additional collaborators, namely Warren Hildebrand (Foxes in Fiction) and Julian Fader (Ava Luna, Gravesend Recordings), Reo’s singular vision grew illuminated by additions of live drums, guitar, bass, piano, synth, harp, theremin, and sax.

“Ghosting” is her most personal song to date - as she sings about tracing her anxiety and sobriety, her words are clearer than usual, like a voice that has been yearning to escape. “It outlines my experience with mental illness - depression, anxiety, OCD - and how it made me unable to live even though I was alive,” Reo says. “It’s about feeling trapped inside your mind, not living your life, not knowing if you’re really living, if this is what your life amounts to.” So often, the experiences, anxieties and illnesses that define us aren't visible to anyone else; only you can see it. Later, “Counterspell” is about overcoming the illness she laid out on “Spell”, using the latter track’s repurposed vocals to show “how anything can be reversed.”

In contrast, the buoyant side B opener “Strawberry” feels all the more powerful, a feminist banger about everyday condescension under the gaze of patriarchy, about navigating fragile male egos in music scenes and beyond: “Wish you had earned that PHD! In R-E-S-P-E-C-T! How many girls in this city are getting T-I-R-E-D?” she belts out. Against the backdrop of “Ghosting” and “Counterspell,” it feels like a victory—the thrill of hearing an artist coming into her own voice. "Only You Can See It" honors what can be the most challenging sight to see: to truly recognize yourself.

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released April 12, 2019

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Emily Reo Brooklyn, New York

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Track Name: Phosphenes
calico and a dove
dominos mirrored in the windowpane
vertigo, as above
so below, locking eyes with hurricanes
do you know what you love
will it grow, will it fade or stay the same
sharp needle drawing blood
from a stone, chlorophylling up my veins

i caught a dangerous bouquet
is this the last time i'll see ivy grow and die
i watched my body float away
a spark to objectify, flying unidentified

promise to stop depending
on you for comfort and maybe
pulling the rug from my feet
would make my standing less shaky
promise to block the ember
don't let my body burn baby
i think the world is ending
so won't you bury me in the

tornado and a flood
reap and sow, cutting down the cherry tree
landscape won't survive on
status quo map of ideology
tomorrow will become
a shadow covering society
afterglow of the sun
will overflow eyes with sparklers of phosphenes

i saw a comet of debris
bleeding the moonlight out of your starry eyes
i tried to read the lines between
sorry that's classified, at least we can say we tried

promise to stop pretending
that i've been sleeping well lately
daydreams of pepper and Peach
but i don't need you to save me
promise to block the ember
until it's cloudy and raining
i think the world is ending
so won't you bury me in the

burning sandcastles turning into glass
figure 8 rotate to reset the past
burning letter sign turning into ash
double 8 on a pill and photograph
burning sandcastles turning into glass
figure 8 rotate to reset the past
burning letter sign turning into ash
an 8th is a 4th changing form and exploring

promise to stop contending
if we could make it back safely
i'm scaling bluffs on muir beach
but i can't feel my heart racing
(i saw a comet of debris)
promise to block the ember
(bleeding the moonlight out of your starry eyes)
until your vision gets hazy
(i tried to read the lines between)
i think the world is ending
don't let it bury me in the ground
Track Name: Ghosting
tracing my anxiety
but i can't make out the path i drew
embracing my sobriety
but it doesn't have a thing to do
with how i live 'cause i won't die
by cigarettes or lightning
unless it strikes inside my mind
and my body idles glowing

braiding silk on my spine
back burned in flickering light
i left my outline up in sweetwater more occupied
from a hollow tree
i've been spirit hosting

i say there's nothing wrong
that i'm just not where i belong
lessening the gravity
prolongs the time my thoughts distort into
a weight that crushes as i fly
like cinder blocks on kite strings
to everyone i left behind
i'm so scared to die i am not living

braiding silk on my spine
arms burned in flickering light
i found my shadow down on pine island less occupied
from a hollow tree
i've been spirit hosting
i found a plot of land
i made it permanent
sapphire map of energy faded like a gradient
from a sprouting seed
you can find me ghosting

can't enjoy the things i used to
every night i'm stuck in my room
every night i'm sick in my room
but i'm always thinking of you
every night i'm stuck in my room
every night i'm sick in my room
would you understand if you knew
that i'm always stuck in my room
every night i'm sick in my room
but i have a screen to look through
every night i'm stuck in my room
every night i'm sick in my room

wanna feel the air of summer nights
in parking lots with ice cream
am i running out of time
to have a life fated for growing

braiding silk on my spine
face burned in flickering light
i saw my silhouette in winter park unoccupied
from a hollow tree
i've been spirit hosting
i found a plot of land
unearthed some rocks and gems
blood ruby sheen opacity faded like a gradient
from a sprouting seed
you can find me ghosting

i could build a new world for you
but we'd still be stuck in my room
every night i'm burned by the moon
Track Name: Candy
i found you alone
a lighthouse, precious stone
uncovered, unknown
cut a diamond built a throne
you found me in ice
a water rising sign
a fire, a spice
burned your face into my mind

high, unsatiated, dry
my stomach in my eyes
catching fireflies, illuminate the sky
when sunlight turns to shade
and seconds turn to days
would you still want a taste

a signal shot through space to someone far away
are you real, can you feel my energy

called you to tell you this screen's an illusion
you don't have warm blood but your currents are human
stick to me light up my room i'll infuse you
with voltage and sparks running through you
life is a peach, isn't it sweet
spit out the pit control alt delete
dug up that power from under my feet

low battery at shows
transmission over grows
command line overflows, now everybody knows
when sunlight turns to shade
and seconds turn to days
would you still want a taste

i wanna see your face, i wanna hear you say
that i’m real, you can feel my energy

touch me through the screen, tell me i’m your queen
in a dream can you see my candy unwrapping
Track Name: Fleur
value even numbers on volume
exist in a vacuum
we are starting to lose energy
viewing moon in apogee
driving, hidden road reuniting
distance dividing
choosing our trajectory
mastering cartography

leave the map inside W tower

watercolor eye
a scaleless butterfly
are we just getting by
idly unsatisfied
craving transparency
but when you look at me
there’s just a cavity
frozen physicality
one finger to the sky
a bird of paradise
can never learn to fly
when did we stop feeling high
the earth is soil and sea
this weight is you and me
embracing gravity
regaining identity

cloudy basement and choking
when i’m alone smoking
in the woods my favorite spot looks south
tasting colors with my mouth
tongue tied, subjectivity exiled
pleasure in your life
you have been cutting your loss
i’m not the both of us

never thought the ending would empower
you’re a honeybee, i am a flower

watercolor eye
a drifting butterfly
becoming satisfied
separately identified
a sacred unity
a shifting reverie
evolving naturally
we belong to nobody
two fingers to the sky
a bird of paradise
can never learn to fly
growing roots is just as nice
the earth is soil and sea
this weight is you and me
embracing gravity
underneath the orange tree
Track Name: Strawberry
sometimes it feels like i’m swimming with sharks
just reading books by myself in the park
and when i’m walking alone after dark
i don’t want your yell, don’t shout me out

over my headphones
i hear you telling me to smile
and then you reach for me
bit in the ocean bleeding
where is your self-control
now you’ve been talking for a while
you don’t even let me speak
you think you know everything

the days i’ve patiently waited
while things i know are clarified or debated

your eyes close when you talk about champagne
my eyes roll back so far i see my brain
and there is so much you try to explain
that i don’t wanna know, keep to yourself

i load into the show
you ask if i’m somebody’s girlfriend
not seen as capable
just someone’s property

the days i’ve patiently waited
while you miscalculated — i don’t owe you anything

you stand in front of me blocking the view
but i’ll climb ladders to see over you
and if there’s something you think i can’t do
don’t need your company, don’t knock me down

what do you deserve from me
n-o-t-h-i-n-g
why do you always have to be
so c-r-y-p-t-i-c
save the calls for my kitty
c-h-a-r-l-i-e
wish you had earned that PHD
in r-e-s-p-e-c-t
how many girls in this city
are getting t-i-r-e-d
finding a sense of security
through h-i-d-i-n-g
wish i could swim but i’m in your teeth
b-l-e-e-d-i-n-g
wish you had earned that PHD
in r-e-s-p-e-c-t
Track Name: Balloon
tired little tiger with a pounding heart
you fire off a beacon through my brittle arms
i'm searching for a spark on every path i run
my clock hands start to crack under the winter sun
so i count

fearless little fighter with a broken jaw
you know that you could set it but you've said it all
you run your fingers through the lake to draw a line
i push on every anchor ’til my palms get tired
and i drown

i'll celebrate your birthday when it's frozen
icicles will melt into an ocean

a fading green balloon came into view
appeared out of the blue, i wished it to
lead me closer to you, i watched as it flew
a fading green balloon above you

magnetic little viper with a venom clutch
connected unexpected diamond in the dust
your patterns shadow canyons of a creasing smile
a season to eclipse the apple in my eye
or leave town

train stations are hushed with words unspoken
i'll celebrate your birthday in slow motion

a flying red balloon came into view
appeared out of the blue while learning to
be alone with you, i watched as it grew
a flying red balloon above you

spirit hiding, you are trapped in a portrait
future sighting, i am reading my fortune
senses idling, you are floating in orbit
magic finding, i am coming right for you

loose time you count it out, count it out
cut ties i'm leaving town, leaving town
sink lines you drown it out, drown it out
change my mind i'm lost and found, lost and found

a soaring black balloon above my view
appeared out of the moon while looking to
sever myself from you, i watched as it blew
a soaring black balloon on the move

tired little tiger with a crowded heart
Track Name: Sundowning
something familiar
caught in a smoke screen
locked in a mirror
swallowed the key
bound by a ceiling
inside an aviary filled with memories set free

buried the day glow
under the willow
mind’s eye in shadow
we saw the same ghost

tasting september
cinnamon cherry
i can’t remember
what i can’t see
it’s arbitrary
at the will of chemicals that rule my sanity

buried the day glow
under the willow
mind’s eye in shadow
we saw the same ghost

luminous eclipse superstitious static at night
i’ve got my lucky penny, library book and planets aligned
like alchemy

and i feel kaleidoscope premonitions fragmenting time
and see a movie screen, a scene from a dream playing in rewind
it’s imaginary

buried the day glow
under the willow
mind’s eye in shadow
we saw the same ghost

wind becoming stone, blowing wishes from my eyelash
can all that i’m forgetting erase me
Track Name: Charlie
sky silver and gold or so i have been told
but we don’t have the time to spend
picture frames are breaking, clocktower light shaking
fallen time and time again

just sitting next to you was all i wanted to do

staring at the sun ’til i see it when it’s gone
would you feel it if i held your arm
flower in your hand, born again through fire and sand
when the bulb burns out the glass stays warm

just getting old with you was all i wanted to do
saying goodbye to you is something i can never do
but i can’t hold you down, if you wanna go
how can i say no

watch the garden rose
as it blooms and grows
from your window throne
sinking like a stone

letters saved for when we meet
tell me all that you have seen
mirror over your mouth
what do you dream about

quiet apartment / thinking you’ll be home soon
and pounding head / making one out of two
hair on the carpet / physical form of you
living above the earth and moon

i’ll wear your ashes / carry a part of you
around my neck / my arm for your tattoo
healing old scratches / are not the end of you
a flower grows july through june

and when you see it / how much is waiting for you
beyond the stairs / as sure as stars above you
tenderly freeing / i will always love you
you’ll always be my baby blue
Track Name: In Theaters
deep and diving
loving unconditionally i forgot to breathe
keep me striving
with all the things i ever hoped for
right outside my reach

on the beach i climbed a, climbed a rocky cliff
catching breath i watched the, watched the fog roll in
yelled until i lost my, lost my voice and then
only i could hear it

all you're bottling
reflecting so internally you forgot to grieve
draw me what you see
how can i know the screen you're viewing
you only cry in the movies

up in queens i fell in, fell into the dirt
following the sidewalk, sidewalk weeds unearthed
and the doctor said i, said i don't look hurt
only i could feel it

picture where you've been, only you can see it
somewhere in between, only you can see it
aching memories, only you can see it
where the grass is green, only you can see it
images you read, only you can see it
what you think they mean, only you can see it
how the mind perceives, only you can see it
our reality, only you can see it

where there is no one else i set the stage i want
where there is no one else i see the things i want

where there is no one else i dream of loose teeth, they're weak when i sleep and strong when i eat
where there is no one else it's more reverie than memory, they're starting to bleed

trees fall down that you'll never hear
our lives play in empty theaters

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