Photo: Dalton Brand

Emily Keener’s “Boats” Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

“In my time as a songwriter, I’ve tended to gravitate toward darker themes and vulnerable emotions,” says Emily Keener. Her introspective songwriting often offers pensive reflections on her Midwest upbringing. Conflicted by the rigid spiritualism of the region’s culture, she offers listeners a window through which to observe and sympathize with that mindset. More-so than ever are these themes pertinent through I Do Not Have to Be Good, Keener’s new album due out on 22 May. It’s a showcase of raw, emotion-driven indie-folk not too dissimilar to the works of Phoebe Bridgers or Adrianne Lenker.

Comparatively, then, “Boats” offers an unfamiliar warmth to proceedings. On this latest single, Keener navigates her performance with nostalgic sweetness. The mellow track is enveloped in kindness and homeliness that begets the dark realities explored elsewhere. Keener reflects further, “This track gave me an opportunity to express a peaceful awareness of love and closeness in a way that speaks to the treasured relationships in our lives. The world is mostly chaotic and painful; I explore that in my writing all the time. I think it’s also important to write about the moments when it is not.”