Jay Elle’s new EP release Ease Up is a six song affirmation of the talents first exhibited on his 2016 release Rising Tide. Elle’s unique synthesis of pop country, country, pop, and singer/songwriter material has an idiosyncratic slant setting it apart from many other efforts. The EP never follows a single path – Elle does more than work towards the lowest common denominator and mixes up the musical stew with changes in tempo and texture that keep listeners guessing throughout the release. Ease Up has, in general, a light sonic touch throughout. It has a modern sound, more pronounced on some tracks than others, and the production has both clarity and balance in abundance. Elle emerges from this EP sounding more confident and on firmer artistic footing than ever before and there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue consolidating his new found status as one of the indie scene’s best young songwriters.
Elle has a great way of winning over listeners apparent in the opening track “Ease Up (Into Love)”. I appreciate how Elle starts his release off with a uplifting track rather than falling prey to the stereotypical singer/songwriter pose of a pseudo anguished poet with a guitar. He writes real songs grounded in real life and emotions rather than miring himself in self-indulgence. Elle doesn’t have a lot of overt skill as a storyteller, per se, but proves to be talented with characterizations and scenarios. Those talents are obvious in the first song.
“Needs Fixing” has a fully rounded point of view and underlines his aforementioned talents for drawing compelling characters. It is remarkable for me to hear how advanced Elle’s songwriting voice is for such a young songwriter; it is often a cliché that artists are born rather than made but, ultimately, I think those who develop over time are more dedicated craftsmen rather than born to create. They have an innate facility for form and realizing its potential but the true spark of inspiration is missing from their work. Jay Elle, however, isn’t like that at all and this song may be the finest distillation of his talent on the EP.
“By the Blade” has a much different shape and tenor than the earlier songs. It has a darker edge without ever becoming too historic or overly theatrical and the lyrical content conforms to the same mood without ever going overboard. It’s an unpredictable turn on the release the earlier tracks never hint at and pays off well for listeners. “Sickly Sweet” brings down the curtain on Ease Up with the same sort of emotional slant defining some of the earlier cuts, but there’s a reflective tint pervading this song missing from the title song. It brings all of the EP’s musical strengths into final sharp relief and concludes the EP in a way that bodes well for the future. Elle has improved with each release and Ease Up shows no indication that he will slack off in the future. If anything, this is a songwriter who will improve with each new collection.