ELLESTEL – Already Haunted

CD Reviews 10 Sep 2006

ellestelELLESTEL – Already Haunted

(2006   Self-Release)

“Give Me the Sun,” the opening track of Ellestel’s Already Haunted EP, so perfectly blends the sophisticated pop laments of the Pernice Brothers with the indie-electronic perk of Stars that it’s darn close to pop nirvana.  Just a click of the button and it never has to end; I’m on listen number 47 (and counting) and still haven’t tired of this tune.  Maybe it’s the way they switch so smoothly to Spanish for the third verse (which I didn’t even notice till the sixth listen) or the inherent Beatle-esque charm of a song with sun in the title.  It’s a song of hope and healing, its lyrics pointing to a better day.  Like Annie for a new generation, they ask, “Give me the sun until my head gets better / Give me the sun until we mend,” instead of dishing out platitudes like “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.”  And their next line, “Tomorrow is forever away,” contradicts everything the little orphan ever told us.

The three remaining songs don’t harbor nearly as much hope. In fact, each contemplates loss from a different perspective: the recent, the impending, and the past.   The first, “Addict’s Shadow,” doesn’t refer to a chemical addiction, but to a feeling that lingers. “Try as I do, still no use / I can’t break loose / From the memory of you,” Gabriel Reed whispers over skittery beats and keyboards.  “Lose Your Love” could have avoided conjuring memories of the Outfield’s hit “Your Love” with its “I don’t want to lose your love” chorus if not for the echo-y eighties-sounding opening which screams exactly that.  A song can be a powerful memory trigger, even years removed from the moment.  “I’m Not Afraid of the Radio” recognizes that very instant when a song (in this case “With or Without” You by U2) elicits a flood of emotion.  But Reed still claims he’s “not afraid of the radio / Because it all sounds the same.”  It’s a clever analysis of a common feeling.

Although these four tracks from multi-instrumentalists Reed and Max Justus demonstrate considerable talent, they never quite overcome the limitations of the short player.  My complaint against the EP format has always been they are just too brief, and more trouble than they are worth.  And now that I have just reached saturation on “Give Me the Sun” (somewhere around listen 62), it’s unlikely I’ll pull Already Haunted out again for awhile.  I’ll wait for the full-length instead.

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