The movie High Fidelity scared the shit out of me. Here was an aging man obsessed with records and maybe because of this not knowing how to navigate life as an emotionally sound person in any of his personal relationships. The movie acted as a cautionary tale. I could, unfortunately, relate to so many of the things he said and hopefully because of this it could act as a a type of how NOT to guide. I didn’t want to find myself in a few years on a weekend night, alone, re organizing my record collection again. One of the things that I did find amusing about the whole endeavour was at the top of the film he famously says, “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”. There is something uneasily true about this statement. Sometimes the more melancholy the music, the better it can make us feel. This is pretty universal. The catharsis involved when listening to others similarly shared experiences can make us feel less alone and give us a little bit of hope that we can come out okay on the other end. Ontario based singer songwriter Ellis, aka Linnea Siggelkow, writes the kind of songs that are easy to relate to. They are confessional, emotional and feel oh so real. Her album Born Again drops April 3rd via Royal Mountain Records and with it she has crafted a perfect album for our trying times.
There is so much to sink into on Born Again. The production is lush and hazy. A universe of reverb drenched guitar and piano just swirling around Ellis’s cautiously cathartic vocal melodies. The record kicks off beautifully with “Pringle Creek” and Ellis singing “Haven’t seen you in days and days on end.” That moment and the way it is handled will slay you. As the band builds up slowly around her, throughout the first verse, the tension is absolutely palatable and before everything kicks in, she sings, “It’s like buying flowers just to watch them die” and so did I. Title track “Born Again” kicks up the tempo some but it’s misleading as the band comes in half time of where that intro guitar started. Most bands would rely on the inverse to try and capture some sort of emotional resonance but this just proves that Siggelkow’s musical instincts are so adept and the choices made throughout the album are all kinds of perfect. “Shame” plays out the story of a bad relationship and while the band builds around the resonance of her words when Siggelkow sings “the truth is that I found you very scary”, it’s a reminder that we all do go through these awful experiences and with hindsight hopefully we can all find some way to heal. Singles “March 13th” features an irresistible jaunty piano and album highlight, and that is saying something as this record is full of highlights, “Saturn Returns” features Ellis at her most confessional and hooky. It is to her great credit that the album is so wonderfully alive with relatable sentiments and is also front to back full of earworms.
Now the fear I felt while watching High Fidelity must seem like something that is pretty incongruous to reviewing Ellis’s amazing record but both pieces of work come from a very personal place. While the main character of the movie was human and flawed like all of us, the main character of Born Again is also human and flawed but Ellis possesses the work with a real sense of self awareness and thoughtfulness the latter seemed to be missing. These qualities go a long way to make you feel more hopeful about any way that you may be feeling while swirling into the records beautiful melancholy. “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” Who knows. All I can really say is that I am thankful for artists like Ellis who put out great pieces of work that allow us to know that these feelings are human, universal and, ultimately, important.
review by Adam Fink