I wasn’t expecting much from this album, to put it mildly. Fashionably grungy album artwork depicting a baby-faced serial killer wielding cartoon knives? My emo alert went off instantly.
Here’s the thing, though: Val Emmich is actually a damn fine pop songwriter, with a gift for laying bare the pale, dark recesses of the human heart — and a knack for the kind of hooky arrangements and sunny, layered arrangements that make the whole thing go down easy. Little Daggers dares you to take it out of your player, and it’s a challenge you may not be able to accept; it was only out of a sense of duty that I swapped out this record for the debut release by something calling itself Safetysuit — and quickly realized I’d made a terrible mistake.
Fans of Silverlake pop will find a lot to love here, and not just because Rilo Kiley’s Blake Sennett pops up on one song. Emmich excels at crafting candy-coated snapshots of misery, whether they’re focused on self-doubt (“Get On With It” [download]), alcoholism (“Got a Problem Now” [download]), or romantic heartbreak (pretty much the rest of the album).
And if you like what you hear here, there’s plenty more where Little Daggers came from — Emmich has released a handful of other albums, all for sale at his website, where you can also read up on his acting career (30 Rock‘s “cougar” episode was just one of his TV appearances) and his upcoming debut novel. If you love a good hook, ignore this album at your own peril.