Emma Lee Toyoda Bears the Weight of the World On New EP I Hear U & I'm Here 4 U (KEXP Premiere)

KEXP Premiere
11/02/2018
Jasmine Albertson
photo by Samira Shobeiri

The human experience is long and difficult and – without the support of others – can be completely unbearable. While that may sound pessimistic and bleak, remembering that it’s an experience we all share, rather than one that is unique to just our individual selves, can be a helpful reminder during our lowest points. Pain and suffering are just inevitable. With that in mind, isn’t it our duty then to support each other however we can?

Support is the main idea behind Seattle songwriter Emma Lee Toyoda’s new EP I Hear U & I’m Here 4 U, out Nov. 8 on Youth Riot records / ENBY PARTY. It comes in all different forms but for Toyoda, those words carry the most weight.

“So many times in the past two years that’s all that I craved to hear,” they explain. “These songs saw me through some of my lowest points and offered comfort when I desperately needed it, so in return, I hope that they can share this love + support to others who may need it.”

A lot’s happened in the two years since the release of Toyoda’s eclectic debut record sewn me anew. Much of it good – the album was celebrated in local media outlets such as The Stranger, City Arts, and, of course, KEXP for example – but also a lot of it very difficult and traumatizing. The US political climate alone could make anyone fall into a deep depression, but tack on the processing of unhealthy relationships and gender and body dysphoria and you’ve got a combustible combination. Luckily for both Toyoda and us, they channeled their sadness, anger, and frustration into the songs that appear on I Hear U & I’m Here 4 U. “No More,” which has existed on Soundcloud for almost a year and has been a staple of their live performances, kicks off the EP. Toyoda’s husky voice alternates between proclaiming they no longer need a certain person anymore and pleading for that person to “just stay with me for a while.” It’s a relatable story for anyone who’s experienced the confusion that accompanies a very unhealthy relationship.

“Take Care” evokes the key element of support that underlies the EP. At just under two minutes, it’s a quick listen but the message is strong enough to stick around long after the song’s ended. “Do you need some help? / I know it’s hard to ask / Believe me I know / But don’t give up on yourself / There are those who need you more than you know” sings Toyoda, saying the exact right thing at the time needed most.

I Hear U & I’m Here 4 U is a far more stripped-down project than sewn me anew, which saw Toyoda integrate everything from banjo to saxophone. Using only electric guitar, keyboard, electric bass, drum machine, and live drums, Toyoda’s breathtaking voice is able to shine. It’s truly amazing how they’re able to go from a near-guttural deepness to a wispy, angelic lightness. In one song, the entire world’s pain can be felt through Toyoda’s enchanting voice.

The entirety of I Hear U & I’m Here 4 U’s profits will be donated to Trans Lifeline & Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. The EP release show will take place Thursday, November 8 at Sonic Boom Records with all merch proceeds benefitting NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, NW Detention Center Resistance, & DESC. Ahead of its release, stream the EP in full below.

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