I’ve tried hard to avoid writing about the pandemic here at Independent Clauses. There is plenty of writing about it from every corner, every day. I have no expertise in anything related to health. This is a music blog. Lisa has touched on the pandemic throughout her reviews over the past 18 months, but I’ve tried to leave music as a place I can go to not think about it. Correspondingly, I’ve wanted my writing to be a place other people can go to not think about it.
I cannot write about ELDR’s Nowhere Else to Go EP without talking about it. They wrote these five songs in the pandemic, and they wrote about the pandemic. The harrowing singer/songwriter piece “Coming Undone” was demoed the weekend that quarantine started for married couple Hanna Rae and Jameson Elder. The Dawes-esque density of “Nowhere Else to Go” is literally about surviving the pandemic. It opens with “Nothing is as it was / how do we begin again?” and continues in the chorus with the answer: “Hold on tight my dear / it’s uphill from here / there’s nowhere else to go.” Even the love songs are tinged with 2020 angst: the sentimental “Safe With You” takes on a new cast in an era where being with other people is scary and potentially dangerous. (They recorded this whole thing alone in their house, except for drums). This is a pandemic release, it is and it is and it is.
But you know what? I had a great quarantine buddy in my wife, and I could genuinely sing the Ingrid Michaelson-esque folk-pop of “You’re What Makes a Good Day” to her. The sweet “My Love Looks Good On You” sounds like the best song Jenny and Tyler never wrote; it’s an earnest, endearing love song that feels more real when surrounded by the heavy first three tracks. This is a pandemic album, but it takes in many aspects of what their lives were like during the pandemic. That’s a lot to cover in five songs, but they do it.
The sonics here are lovely. Both Rae and Elder have solo careers of their own, so this release is a fusion of their sounds. Rae’s indie-pop/folk-pop lightens Elder’s crunchy alt-country, resulting in a beautiful blend of folk, alt-country, and indie-pop. Mixing by Dewey Boyd (Forty-One Fifteen in Nashville) and mastering by Duncan Ferguson (The Voltage Exchange in Nashville) make Elder’s production ideas shine. It’s little touches that give the songs character and pop. The distant vocals in the intro of “Nowhere Else to Go” call to mind IC fave Afterlife Parade. (Elder was a touring guitarist for them, actually.) The quirky percussion in “You’re What Makes a Good Day” helps give the song its charm. Overall, these sounds are ones that you can wrap yourself up in like a warm blanket.
If I have to write about the pandemic, ELDR’s Nowhere Else to Go is a good place to start. From the troubled “Coming Undone” to the chipper “…Good Day,” the EP is a small archive of feelings they felt (and I feel) during the pandemic. Maybe you’re pandemic’d out–I get it. But if you’re ready to process a little more, ELDR have a gentle, comforting way to start doing that. The sounds are homey and well-lived-in, and the lyrics are honest in a wide depiction of moods. This is top-shelf folk-pop. Highly recommended.