Theres a certain mystical quality about Elf Powers 10th studio release. I’ve found albums like this before. Somehow, they have a sort of medieval undertone, complete with the feeling of a journey that almost feels more like a Tolkien story rather than a rock and roll record. Previous bands that have given me this feeling include Led Zeppelin (IV), Rainbow (Rising), and the little-known but totally rad Uriah Heep (Demons and Wizards). Elf Powers self-titled record is much like these releases; these Elephant 6 guys created the indie record equivalent of a King Arthur story, even if the subject matter has nothing fantastical about it.
The opening track, The Taking Under, paints a medieval portrait right off the bat as the drum roll announces the commencement of something grand. It sounds like the hero of some sort of Merlin/dragon/castle story riding his horse across a sunset field. The drums continue to build as long and elegant chords grace the tune. While the lyrics discuss ones fate (perhaps death), the music boils until the finish, and then it just hangs on a final chord leading into Wander Through. This second track sounds ridiculous, with its almost silly note arrangement, use of cowbells, and a guitar riff that probably wont leave your head anytime soon.
Stranger in the Window is a beautiful and bluesy number with what seems like sorrowful love from afar. It might take 20 years to know me/I guess it all depends on what you show me, Andrew Reiger croons, Ill be all alone/with the wind in my mouth/just a stranger in the window. If there is some sort of medieval quest going on in your brain, this would certainly be the part where the knight weeps for a love, a princess, or whatever it was medieval heroes had to weep about. Like a Cannonball contains a bizarre use of the classic string instruments, but barely reaches any form of excitement.
A track like The Ghost of John will certainly catch your ear if you are more into the folksy-wandering minstrel type of music. All day long/the ghost of John/stood right in front of me/I want to go back/to when his face could not be seen. I dont blame Reiger on that fact; ghosts are scary. The track picks up as a lo-fi distortion guitar chimes in at select points from the midpoint of the song onward. Songs like The Concrete and the Walls and Goldmine in the Sun have a video game type quality about their riffs. Goldmine is a bit more cheerful of a track, discussing the search for happiness in such a chaotic world. Very soon time erases/everything youve ever done/and Im always being reminded/of the goldmine in the sun, symbolizes that very notion.
The final two songs are both little things. The first is Little Black Holes, (which in actuality arent that little), an off-kilter number. As I walked all the way back home/felt like I had always known Reiger sings over the ethereal chord progression and odd drum beat. It sounds as though this fantastic journey is coming to an end (even if the lyrics do not depict such a thing). Little Hand, the final track, is a beautiful acoustic track that sounds like the completion of something grand. If this album were in some way a story, it sounds like it would be a happy ending.
Thats the thing about records like this. The songs might not be tied together by some common thread, theme, or story, but it still sounds like a journey. In a way, every album does tell a story, whether we like it or not (whether it be about Syd Barrett going insane or a certain rapper coping with success). Elf Power may not have meant this record to come out as some sort of mythical journey, but it has. This will be the record I play if I ever go to New Zealand and decide to hike to Mordor.