In concert: EMA at Red Palace


Erika M. Anderson of EMA specializes in raw, emotional lyrics. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post)

But sometimes Anderson was simply giving instructions to herself. “Stop being a dork on stage,” she commanded herself at one point in response to some between song babbling. It was funny but she also had a point. When presenting yourself as the rough rock chick — kind of a cross between Yeah Yeah Yeahs Karen O and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon — that plays raw, uncompromising songs about life as an outsider, comical asides have a way of breaking the spell you’re trying to cast.

Her stage presence is something that Anderson will have time to work on, but she might want to get cracking. EMA’s stellar debut, “Past Life Martyred Saints,” is one of the year’s most intriguing albums, notable for its dark lyrical matter and chilling soundscapes. It’s getting notice from the right folks — on Friday EMA played at the Pitchfork Music Festival, the hippest of all summer gatherings — as her combination of goth drama and grunge grit hits on a surprising pair of current underground revivals. The latter half of that equation was apparent in songs such as “Anteroom” and “Milkman,”where electric guitar crunch brought memories of Hole and Babes In Toyland rushing back.



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