When local band elle/the Remnant released Skies Iâ€™ve Learned How to Love in January 2018, it must have seemed like a long time coming.
In 2014, the six-piece band had just come off a one-year hiatus and had reformed with a new spirit and a handful of new songs. Over the next four years, they recorded the 12 songs on Skies.
It was worth the wait.
The album, best categorized as indie-folk-Americana, finds Coplin and Armstrong, as well as bandmates Jessica Becker, Edith Coplin, Jen Foster, and Kelsey Schneider, in an adventurous mood. Driven by Armstrongâ€™s propulsive guitar and Coplinâ€™s clear, strong vocals, Skies is a blend of songs inspired by longing, nature, and the dread and ultimate release that comes from the feeling of drowning. Though primarily an acoustic, stringed instrument band â€” cello, guitars, and violin â€” Skies kicks off and ends with a pair of piano-based songs.
â€śWeary Heartâ€ť is a gentle song about homesickness with intricate vocal harmonies which, along with Armstrongâ€™s rhythm guitar, help define elle/the Remnantâ€™s strengths as a band. An accordion joins the mix peeking its baffled head in under the piano here and there. â€śWeary Heartâ€ť provides a solid footing for the rest of the record.
The next three songs, â€śCry From the Earth,â€ť â€śâ€ťMoon Dance,â€ť and â€śWolves,â€ť take their inspiration from nature, with â€śWolvesâ€ť conveying the mystery, wonder, and joy that Mother Earth provides.
Ellen Coplin sings on all songs but â€śThe Lion,â€ť which is sung by Becker. Coplinâ€™s and Beckerâ€™s voice are very different but equally strong. The same holds for the other singers in the band, Foster and Schneider. The harmonies created by their unique voices when combined falls under the heading â€śspine-tingling.â€ť
Several songs reference the Bibleâ€™s book of Jonah, always a good source for metaphor and allegory, as literary tools on full display in Armstrongâ€™s poignant lyrics. The final three songs on the album (â€śThe Sea,â€ť â€śShipwreck,â€ť and â€śDeep Blueâ€ť) are about drowning. Succumbing to water never sounded so beautifully peaceful.
If Skies Iâ€™ve Learned How to Love is any indication of elle/the Remnantâ€™s potential, and I hope it is, good things will continue to pour from this talented sextet.
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