The Garden Dream by gglum album review by Ethan Rebalkin for Northern Transmissions


The Garden Dream


gglum, the moniker of London-born singer-songwriter Ella Smoker, has released her remarkable debut album, and first under legendary Indiana-based label Secretly Canadian (Cherry Glazerr, Hatchie, Faye Webster), The Garden Dream. It’s an eclectic collection of noisy, pillowy, indie rock that keeps you singing along with its hooks, and constantly engaged with its garage-y, lo-fi production.

On the first track “With You” I was immediately reminded of the intimate songwriting of Adrienne Lenker, or Alex G. That double tracked acoustic guitar that sounds so close that you can almost touch it, and Smoker’s lush vocal delivery that feels as familiar as a friend retelling an old story. Distorted acoustic guitar blesses the chorus’, while a The Microphones-esque low harmonium line sits right underneath. Second track “SPLAT!” wastes no time in turning up the heat. A Pinback-y guitar line leads the way with Smoker’s assured vocal delivery hammering in the melody. Plucky, acoustic harmonics, and an arpeggiated synth melody lift up the second chorus before the assertive strum of the acoustic walks you out.

Third track “Late” is a crushing ballad. Mostly led by a warbly picky guitar part, before an ever building wash of reverberated drums, and synth welcome themselves in on the second verse. “Pruning 1” lends itself as a trippy, noisy interlude before the affectionate “Pruning 2” soothes. I’m reminded of the ballad-prowess of Caroline Polachek, or Liz Harris’ Grouper.

Album single “Easy Fun” is a sleazy indie rock tune, a la Bar Italia, about “Necking everyone in the pub,” and “Puking into the wall.” A bossa-nova drum rhythm, and distorted vocal performance sits over an ever-moving bassline and sparse, flowing synth. The song can’t help but transport your imagination to some dodgy dive bar in London. “Glue” is a more straight ahead indie-rock song, think Slow Pulp or Clairo. A familiar chord progression, and subtle padded synths lend itself to let Smoker’s breathy vocals flow and cascade over the song. An instant favorite off the album for myself.

“Second Best” is another more upbeat cut off the album. It picks up the pace, and delivers irresistible hooks over layers of driving synthisizers. Smoker’s songs have the familiarity and approachability of one’s you’d find yourself singing in the car with a close friend. The heartfelt “Do You See Me Different?” puts that feeling on full display with a feature on the last verse from Kamal., who’s contribution compliments Smoker’s purposeful prose with class.

Another album single “Eating Rust” puts the Phil Elverum influence on full display. Loose acoustic guitar and a saturated floor tom beat lay way for Smoker’s vocals to pull you in, before a chorus of harmonium and synthesizer drift you away on a cloud of longing. Sitting at just under two minutes, album closer “The Garden Dream” lulls you to sleep on a bed of atmospheric synth and layers of silky soft vocals. At just 21 years old, Ella Smoker delivers an earnest, eclectic collection of lofi-indie tunes, with no shortage of crafty references to her predecessors.

Order The Garden Dream by gglum HERE


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