Making this Long-Dormant Writer Woke – Elk City’s Fifth “Everybody’s Insecure”

Elk City
Everybody's Insecure
Bar None Records

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Well, prepare yourself because here I go again [clears throat]…Where the sam hell have I been? How long – and why, ffs – has the universe been keeping Elk City from me? [big sigh, shaking of head, the steady bearing down – through a grimace – of pen to paper].

With origins stretching back to the pre-internet early 90’s – their first band, based out of NYC, bore the too-fateful name Melting Hopefuls – core members Renée LoBue and Roy Ketchum (singer/song originator and drummer/producer, respectively) have persisted where others would have faded, their collaboration premised on adaptability, forward motion, and stellar songcraft. Long since renamed Elk City, the band, abetted here by guitarist (and current Luna member) Sean Eden, Carl Baggerly on keys, and bass master Martin Olson, also seem intent on capturing timelessnes – as well a touch of lightning – in a bottle, the tracks on fifth album Everybody’s Insecure displaying the glorious ease of a New Pornographers with the suss and nous of a Field Music.

I mean, I dunno, but skimming through this record – the shrugging pop perfection of opener “Sparrow,” Olson’s bass the most fluid anchor ever, “Ride the Slide”‘s luminous, jazz-tinged indie, the Nyro-shaped echo of the city soulful “What if I Said You Were Dead,” the jaunt and pulse of “25 Lines” whereon the commanding mellifluity of LoBue’s vocals is a highlight-among-highlights, and “Root Beer Shoes,” plangent, Beat-inflected and shiver-inducing – one falls in love with joy’s effect of melancholy while simultaneously feeling lavished by the beauty of this album’s sound. The word for Ketchum’s touch at the console regardless of the mood required, be it poignant plucky pensive or punch-drunk, is ‘lush,’ providing another keen example, if one were needed, of the value a gifted producer brings to the party.

Impeccable, rich, the idiosyncratic anchored by rock-solid arrangements – or the latter loosened by the former, whatever – the playing intuitive, spry and sure in a way we’d expect if the National were mooshed into Steely Dan [and here I express regret for this short piece’s second comparative mash-up; some albums trigger reckless editorial behavior like that], Everybody’s Insecure is, to the unitiated, the kind of sleeper that leaves the listener more woke than could be reasonably expected, not to mention utterly grateful.