Music Review: Elephant Heart
A few weeks ago, Josh and Danielle (writers for this site) participated with me in an elongated Twitter thread regarding the trio performance of Phoebe Bridgers, Noah Gundersen, and Abby Gundersen (you can watch the video here).
I share this short anecdote because earlier in 2018 the sister of Noah and Abby, Elizabeth Gundersen released her debut album, Elephant Heart. Though Danielle prefers male vocals, I tend to fall on the other side of the spectrum and was excited to give this one a spin.
The record is six songs and twenty-three minutes long, one song fewer than Kanye’s latest. The first track, “Falling for You” reminds me of White Buffalo’s “I Got You” in tone and pacing. At first listen I thought it might not have been the right track to open the record with, but subsequent listens have proven it to be a fine choice.
The second song, “Walls” is my undeniable favorite. It is the fastest paced of the six, and I’m a sucker for the guitar production between the strumming acoustic and the wiry western electric. At the start of the second verse the acoustic falls away, leaving the electric and a brushed snare drum to pick up the slack. The song stands out because it sounds different from the other five, and I confess to wishing there was at least one more song in its vein. Elizabeth does a good job of letting you know this song is being sung in a bar, either from the stage microphone or the stool. “I know liquor cannot save me, it’s not as strong as it used to be” is one of my favorite lyrics I have heard in a while.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Elizabeth considers “Farewell William” the most personal song on the record, but I don’t find it particularly resonating. Other listeners may feel different, and my not being William has to be considered a variable, too.
“Elephant Heart” and “Precious Wine” are well-placed as tracks four and five. The former details a relationship in a tailspin and a woman trying to save it; the latter is passion cannonballing into lust and seduction. The lyrics switch between the first and third person, and I am left wondering if this is because this is who Elizabeth is, or who she sometimes dreams of being. The effect reminds me of a complex wine, and it is well executed.
The EP closes with “My Side,” one last chance for the aforementioned relationship in a tailspin to convince each other they really love each other this time. The song and record end with the sound of Elizabeth walking out of the room, and the metaphor is not lost on the listener.
This won’t be my record of the year, but I will listen to it many more times before the year is out. I don’t think we’ve seen the best Elizabeth Gundersen has to offer, and I look forward to additional singles and releases.
***¾ / 5