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After the success of 2011s Past Life Martyred Saints and 2014s prophetic The Future s Void, EMA retreated to a basement in Portland, Oregon a generic apartment complex in a non-trendy neighborhood, with beige carpeting and cheap slat blinds. Now, she returns, with a portrait of The Outer Ring: A pitch-black world of dark night highways, American flags hung over basement windows, jails and revival meetings and casinos and rage. In a year dominated by white working-class alienation and anger, EMA a Midwesterner who never lost her thousand-yard stare -- has delivered an album that renders Middle American poverty and resentment with frightening realism and deep empathy. I want to explain to outsiders that the people where I come from arent beyond hope and reason , says EMA, I want this record to bridge a divide.

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