(photo:: )
Album reviews
Artist:
Ellis
Album:
Born Again
Release year:
2020
Label:
Fat Possum
25 April 2020 / by Calvin Leung (author)

Genres: Dream pop, shoegaze

At 2019’s North by Northeast, Ellis opened for legendary sad dads American Football at Toronto’s Opera House. While hugely overshadowed by American Football’s first-ever show in Toronto, their presence allowed the night to achieve perfect emo balance, with Linnea Siggelkow’s songs providing a female counterpoint to Mike Kinsella’s. 

Born Again - at its heart - is an emo album. While Ellis’ sound might be that of fuzz-fuelled dream pop, the lyricism and themes hark back to second-wave emo bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and the aforementioned American Football. Truth be told, they are at their best when Siggelkow is channeling the directness of those bands.

The standout track on the album is also unsurprisingly one of its most direct. ‘Fall Apart’ recounts Siggelkow’s struggles with anxiety and her desperation to not spiral out of control in front of others, without hiding behind any clever metaphors, the song is extremely emotionally impactful. Musically, the track builds and builds, with every passing verse and chorus introducing a new texture of sound until it eventually reaches a cathartic shoegazing section at its climax.

The loud distorted guitars on the album are a genuinely refreshing moment for modern indie music, where instruments are often very clean in sound and the production is drowned in reverb. Ellis’ ability to tastefully use said effect also allowed them to create an album that is lush in sound without turning into a pool of sound with no focus, a fate suffered by fellow Canadian indie rockers TOPS.

 

 

The two short ballads on the album serve as some of the most candid songwriting in music for quite a while. Short songs on albums often serve as filler material to inflate the running time and amount of songs without providing much substance, these certainly are not. ‘March 13’ is a lo-fi piano ballad in-which Siggelkow looks at her past mistakes in comparison to where she is now. If sentimentality had a sound, her voice on the song would certainly be it. In ‘Happy’, Siggelkow simply sings her heart out about her emotions and wishes that she will rather be dead, such honesty in songwriting requires a significant amount of bravery and she should be rightfully praised for it.

Unfortunately for Ellis, one of the weakest lyrical moments is paired with the weakest instrumental on the album. The title track suffers from overwrought lyrics paired with an uninspired sounding electric guitar strumming away before shifting into a more washed out section with a synthesizer lead that sounds like a thrift store Casio keyboard. The song is undoubtedly one of the least inspired among the ten tracks of Born Again.

While there is much to like about Born Again, there also is not much to love about it. The album is a bit too raw and not fleshed out enough to be a truly great piece of work. However, the album shows Ellis does indeed have a great deal of potential and stands out in the current crowd of rising indie stars. It would not be surprising if in the near future, Siggelkow will spearhead the next wave of emo. As of now however, I am not expecting any songs on Born Again to become the next ‘Never Meant’

Rating: 7/10

 

The author

Calvin Leung

Write a Comment