“Yesterday’s News” by Robert Ellis (Niles Metropolis)
In the title monitor to his new album, “Yesterday’s Information,” singer-songwriter Robert Ellis indicates in thinly-veiled phrases that he’s washed up. But the album proves he’s something but.
Ellis isn’t for all people, and big-scale professional good results could not be his future. His voice is expressive but reedy, his lyrics quirky, even eccentric. But the originality that created him a critics’ darling going back again at least to his brilliant…
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“Yesterday’s News” by Robert Ellis (Niles Town)
In the title track to his new album, “Yesterday’s Information,” singer-songwriter Robert Ellis indicates in thinly-veiled conditions that he’s washed up. But the album proves he’s everything but.
Ellis isn’t for everyone, and large-scale industrial good results may not be his destiny. His voice is expressive but reedy, his lyrics quirky, even eccentric. But the originality that made him a critics’ darling heading back again at least to his amazing 2014 album, “The Lights of the Chemical Plant,” shines as brightly as at any time here.
The 9 tunes on “Yesterday’s News” are established versus a subdued history of acoustic finger-picking on nylon strings, backed by an upright bass and mild percussion. The actively playing frequently seems far more like classical guitarist Andres Segovia than anything nation or Americana, and Ellis leans into it for prolonged instrumental stretches.
A number of songs hint at pandemic themes, and whilst it’s accurate that most art kinds have ventured earlier the stage of providing everything contemporary or insightful about the months we all invested in isolation, Ellis is far better suited than most to commemorate the mood. The frailty of his voice and the nakedness of his guitar bleed a form of vulnerability that matches the moment.
Ellis’s songs has constantly had a brittle come to feel to it. His lyrics express exposure no matter if he’s confessing to his son on “Gene” that the darkish frightens him, also, or capturing cultural desperation in a tune named “On the Operate.”
The latter is a testomony to Ellis’s songwriting genius. It opens with a street vacation by means of the desolate West Texas landscape, the stark visible imagery established in opposition to an urgent acoustic history. By the time the track is about, even though, he’s offered up something that will work on lots of levels.
“Every a person out in this desert is just passing by way of or shed,” he writes, “dissipating to the environment like smoke from the exhaust.”
It could be about the pandemic, or about being American, or about remaining alive in the 21st century. It echoes the Townes Van Zandt song, “Waiting All around to Die,” both in melody and model. That’s virtually definitely intentional, and right here it arrives off as just one more of Ellis’s multitudes.
It’s the sort of lyricism that sets him apart from everyday songwriters — and will make it obvious that he’s yesterday’s information only in the most ironic feeling.
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