LP Review: Song In The Air by Elliott

Elliott
Song In The Air
Revelation; 2003

My Rating: A- (83/100)

Best Tracks: "Land And Water", "Carry On", "Believe", "Drag Like Pull", "Song in the Air", "Away We Drift"

Next step: evaporate.

TRACK NOTES

"Land And Water" (4.5/5)

  • Very cool sound.
  • Still can’t understand a thing of what he’s saying. That’s his bag though.
  • Great guitar work by Benny Clark.
  • Production sounds PERFECT this time around. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right.

"Carry On" (4.5/5)

  • Pretty melody.
  • Again, nice guitar effects by Benny Clark.
  • Another somewhat Coldplay-ish tune.
  • Well written song. Great arc.

"Believe" (5/5)

  • Here’s an excellent example of the band just sounding more graceful than on False Cathedrals.
  • This is a gorgeous track.
  • The string work is perfect.

"Beijing (Too Many People)" (4/5)

  • You know, this reminds me of The Shipping News’ second album (Very Soon…).
  • Pleasant, but maybe a bit too long?

"Drag Like Pull" (4.5/5)

  • Excellent instrumental.
  • Tight as a snare drum.
  • Bet this one was awesome live.

"Bleed In Breathe Out" (4/5)

  • A bit faceless (?).
  • Still, I like it.
  • Especially dig the part towards the end where Ratterman starts in with a more martial pattern.

"Song In The Air" (4.5/5)

  • Strings, piano, and Higdon’s voice. Just great.
  • A perfect interlude. This really grounds the album. Makes it feel complete.

"Away We Drift" (5/5)

  • Another excellent rocker. This is the band firing on all cylinders.

"Blue Storm" (3.5/5)

  • Not much here. It strikes of filler.

"Genea" (4/5)

  • If that’s not Eno-esque, I don’t know what is.
  • Very cool.

ALBUM NOTES

  • False Cathedrals gets the props, but for my money, Song In The Air is superior. The album nails it in terms of cohesion and concept.
  • Eno might call this “Music for Airlines.”
  • It’s a shame the band decided to call it quits after this, as it is their strongest effort artistically (though I’ll always have a big place in my heart for US Songs). In all reality though, I don’t know what they would have done after this. Get MORE atmospheric perhaps?
  • Few bands have so dramatically transformed in the space of five years. Remember when these guys were writing power pop?

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Songs (4.35/5)

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LP Review: False Cathedrals by Elliott

Elliott
False Cathedrals
Revelation; 2000

My Rating: B (73/100)

Best Tracks: "Calm Americans", "Blessed By Your Own Ghost", "Drive On To Me", "Shallow Like Your Breath", "Superstitions In Travel", "Speed of Film"

In transit-ion.

TRACK NOTES

"Voices"/"Calm Americans" (5/5)

  • Spectacular.
  • Coldplay-ish piano line, but I think they beat Chris Martin and his merry band of hobbits to the punch.
  • Hyper-emo, but in a good way.
  • A technical note: these tracks should be sequenced into 1. It sounds really awkward when you stream it.
  • Lastly: I’m actually not that crazy about this track, a little too melancholy for me, but it’s pretty great in all reality.

"Blessed By Your Own Ghost" (5/5)

  • Pretty.
  • Sorta dreamy.
  • Kinda sounds like "Silent Lucidity", right!?!? "We’ll protect you in the night…"

"Drive On To Me" (4.5/5)

  • Poppy.
  • Is it just me, or does Higdon’s second vocal track sound like Sheryl Crow?
  • Nice tune. Just not sure what "drive on to me" means.

"Calvary Song" (4/5)

  • Here’s one where it would have been good to actually understand Higdon’s vocals.
  • Man, that bass is just right up there in your face.
  • There’s something unique about this cut, but it’s not quite there, you know?

"Lipstick Stigmata" (4/5)

  • I’m not crazy about the recording here, but I’ll bet this one is pretty powerful live.
  • The end of this one almost sounds like late period Endpoint.
  • Not as melancholy as some of the earlier cuts, a bit more like their US Songs tracks.

"Dying Midwestern" (4/5)

  • Nice use of dissonance.
  • There’s those synth effects again.
  • Good grief, just wanna understand the lyrics!!!

"Shallow Like Your Breath" (4.5/5)

  • This one is gorgeous.
  • Nice build to nothing in the middle.
  • Reminds me a bit of "Second Story Skyscraper" in terms of the dramatic arc.

"Superstitions in Travel" (4/5)

  • This is a track that probably could have been a radio hit with production that let it breathe a little more.
  • Dig the use of the acoustic guitar at the beginning, along with the naked drums.
  • Vocals…intelligible…blah blah blah…

"Carving Oswego" (4/5)

  • This one has kind of an 80’s sound. Almost like Heart.
  • I would have loved to get an updated cut of this on Photorecording.

"Lie Close" (3.5/5)

  • This reminds me of early Boy Sets Fire.
  • Yeesh – not too crazy about this one.
  • That last part – "you and I were meant for each other" – that’s kind of cheezy.

"Speed of Film" (4.5/5)

  • This one settles into a nice groove.
  • Also a track that, with a little more time and attention, might have made a bit more of an impact.
  • This one has a very nice melody.

ALBUM NOTES

  • Here’s the deal – some people swear by this album, but for me the production sucks the life out of it. Thankfully, they captured their sound better on Song In The Air and even got superior versions of some of these songs on Photorecording.
  • As problematic as the production is, I have to say that at least these songs can’t really be pigeon-holed into the late-90’s/early-2000’s emo scene. There’s something of the Chicago sound in these tunes, a little bit of Slint-itude if you will.
  • I can remember when this came out, Buddyhead posted perhaps the most hilarious short review of an album in the age of the internet: "This sounds like Bryan Adams." On that note, I bet Elliott would have done a killer cover of "Everything I Do" (which will eternally be a great song due to its cinematic affiliations in the same way as Peter Cetera’s "The Glory of Love"). But I digress…
  • I wonder if this is the first album review that has ever mentioned Slint, Sheryl Crow, and Peter Cetera in reference to the same album?

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Songs (4.3/5)

Quick Review (LP): U.S. Songs by Elliott

Elliott
US Songs
Revelation; 1998

My Rating: B+ (77/100)

Best Tracks: "Miracle", "Intro", "Dionysus Burning", "Second Story Skyscraper", "Alchemy as a Rhythm"

Excellent debut from hyper-melodic post-hardcore outfit.

TRACK NOTES

"Miracle" (5/5)

  • Helluva way to start a record. Big and beautiful.
  • Great guitar work by Jay Palumbo.
  • Ratterman is crazy on the drums.
  • This one seems to be sort an anti-commercialist lament.
  • Here it is back in the day.

"Intro" (5/5)

  • Great instrumental.
  • Love that simple little repeating bit. Love the effect on it.
  • Great jam. Not amazing musically, but they really rock it hard. The thing almost comes apart at the end.

"The Conversation" (4/5)

  • One of the great things about early Elliott was the slow dance tunes. This is a good one.
  • Intimate tune with a gorgeous melody.
  • Nice changeup from the first two tracks.

"Dionysus Burning" (4/5)

  • Powerful performance.
  • The hardcore roots are showing.
  • Amazing vocals by Higdon.

"The Watermark High" (4/5)

  • A little flat compared to the single version that preceded it.
  • Ratterman may be a hell of a drummer, but Ben Lord’s drumming defined this one on the In Transit 7".
  • Cool tune nonetheless.

"Every Train That Passes" (4.5/5)

  • Love the breakdown on this one.
  • Powerful drum work by Ratterman.
  • Sort of dreamy.

"Suitcase and Atoms" (4.5/5)

  • That’s some poppy hard rock.
  • Is it power pop? It deserves the label, at least semantically.
  • Catchy. Got no idea what it means.

"Second Story Skyscraper" (5/5)

  • One of my favorites. Pretty unorthodox tune in structure.
  • It’s all over the place, but it really works.
  • That last bit, the last 30-45 seconds, that kills me. So great.
  • This tune is like a tiny, aural film. Fantastic.
  • I always thought of this one as a "worlds collide" tune for the sounds of Rodan and Sunny Day Real Estate.

"Alchemy as a Rhythm" (5/5)

  • I saw Elliott several times in 96/97, before this album came out, and I think they would open with this one right after the "Lost Instrumental" from the If They Do EP.
  • It was so exciting. It was like the reincarnation of Sunny Day Real Estate, who were my favorite band at the time.
  • Great tune. Pure emotional power.

"Ten Cent Inquiry" (4.5/5)

  • I think this was also a pretty early tune.
  • Love the way this one slowly picks up steam.
  • Pretty powerful by the time it ends.

"Safety Pin Explanation" (4/5)

  • You know, I think I can recognize about 10% of the words in this song.
  • Nice coda on the song. Perfect way to round out a heckuva show.
  • Early video of this one here.

ALBUM NOTES

  • As great as his voice is, Higdon is a hard dude to understand. I think it would be really interesting to do a study on his vocal and lyrical patterns.
  • Another thought on Higdon’s voice: the guy writes interesting lyrics, but the lyrics seem more like a vehicle for conveying his amazing voice. Reminds me, again, of early Sunny Day Real Estate and Jeremy Enigk. Stipe did it, and so have others. It’s a singing philosophy, and one, in my mind, that completely works.
  • There’s a ton of great video from this period (and before) on YouTube. A few choice cuts: Ben Lord era, “The Watermark High”, “Halfway Pretty”, “Second Story Skyscraper”.
  • Man, what I wouldn’t give to get a live recording of the band in the Ben Lord era. Nothing against Ratterman, but there’s just something about a great band in that early, pre-debut stage.
  • All in all, this is my favorite Elliott album. While I appreciate their later work, in my mind, this album represents the band at the height of their promise. It’s completely memorable, catchy, and the songs come across with amazing energy. While I would have loved to have some more cuts of the Ben Lord era (props to Ratterman, but BL had it going on), this is the closest thing we’ll probably ever get to that. Call me nostalgic, but something about this band when they were still figuring it all out was completely magical. Maybe we’ll get a deluxe edition with some unreleased demos or live recordings one of these days? Pretty please?

ATTRIBUTES

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (3.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)