Ellis | Born Again | (Fat Possum)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
If your name was Linnea Siggelkow, you’d probably take a pseudonym too. In this case the Ontario based singer settled on Ellis (a play on her initials L and S) which rolls off the tongue with less strain. The singular moniker is also indicative of the nearly one woman project she has created for her debut full length album.
Ellis’ lovely, ethereal, ghostly vocals float over her similarly styled, heavily reverbed guitar and piano songs, underpinned by minimalist, throbbing bass and drums. The flowing, slightly somnolent melodies won’t be the life of any party, but that’s not what she’s after. Rather Ellis opens up about her innermost insecurities, frustrations and anxieties, hoping to connect with others who have related feelings. Titles such as “Embarrassing,” “Fall Apart” and “Shame” are an indication of the self-doubt Ellis expresses in these generally atmospheric tracks. There’s some Cowboy Junkies influence in the overall pensive, drifting melodies that occasionally burst into subtly thunderous choruses.
On “Saturn Returns” she sings “Peeling off my skin/As I’m paying for my sins/In the morning I’ll be new/In the morning I’ll begin” in a detached yet sweetly mellifluous voice that congeals into her alternately moody and edgy music. She’s unsure of herself when admitting “And I’m trying my best to remember/A time I wasn’t sad… And it’s hard to admit/That I still wanna die sometimes,” in a tune oddly named “Happy.” The title is only used once in the sentence “You know I wish that I could be happy,” which gives you all you need to know about her tenuous mental state.
Ellis is no luckier in romance as she sings in the opening “Pringle Creek” that “And I’m scared and I don’t know/Feels like buying flowers just to watch them die” and “There are things I don’t want you to know/And please/Don’t watch me/Unraveling” on “Fall Apart.”
These troubled dispositions are infused into generally languorous, diaphanous, yearning indie rock similar to the more restrained sounds of The Church and Siouxie and the Banshees with strains of Lana Del Ray. The winding, somewhat meandering melodies take a while to differentiate themselves in the overall misty ambiance but repeated playings help define them.
Ellis’ first full length release taps into a discreet sense of introspection rare for any recording artist, let alone a relatively new one. It’s headphone music for lonesome, solitary Sunday mornings when the self-reflection temperature is high and the vibe is low boil. As Ellis says in her notes “…if these songs help people to find some comfort or feel less alone….then that’s really the greatest takeaway I could ever hope for.”