Emily Jane White’s third album Ode to Sentience is her most realized work to date. Drawing upon finger-picked folk, traditional country, classical music and rock, White creates an expansive space for her intuitive lyrics and elegiac vocals. The spare skeletons of the songs on Ode to Sentience are fleshed out with subdued electric guitar thrums, diaphanous organ, ethereal pedal steel guitar, lush strings, and White’s dusky alto with its signature catch.
Ode to Sentience unifies White’s recurring themes and her fascination with Gothic America into an assured statement. There’s an emotional potency to the songs, betraying her keen eye for the power dynamics of interpersonal conflict, melancholy, and confinement. In “I Lay to Rest (California)”, a meditation upon isolation, oppression, and the redemption of grace, White imbues the potentially morbid statement “You were a body, you were a ghost, now you are nothing, the dark it up and rose, and toward the light it took you, and melted your wings, you were a body and now you are nothing” with the optimistic recitation, “there must be a way out.” White doesn’t wallow in darkness and morbidity; instead she considers her work to be unifying, an empathetic reflection on the universality of adversity. She sings of individuals “dwelling within oppressive circumstances while seeking liberation despite their isolation and silent suffering.”