On the back of a rollicking rhythm, “Sickly Sweet” comes gliding out of our stereo speakers with a catharsis that will spread out across every stitch of audio in this brooding selection from the new Jay Elle EP Ease Up (Into Love). Its melodies are firm, but the method of execution that Elle takes in his approach to the microphone is rather relaxed by comparison, allowing for his carefree attitude to carry over into the music, even during its more rigid moments. All of the songs that we find on Ease Up (Into Love) represent a different layer in his intriguing musical persona, but together they form a patchwork of harmonies that, in more ways than one, define his artistry better than anything he’s released previously has.
“By the Blade” is probably my favorite song from Ease Up (Into Love), and it’s also (quite ironically) the most stripped-down recording included in this tracklist. The guitar parts are almost guttural in their translation here; there’s too much treble, not enough middle and a graininess to the harmony that, though adding up to an unequivocal mess on paper, ends up producing something really alluring, edgy and unfiltered. I can honestly say that this is Jay Elle at his most unguarded, and it’s a sound that I want to hear a lot more of in his next record. With a swaggering vocal like his, he can play as well with a harsh arrangement as he can a smooth one, which definitely isn’t the case with most of his peers.
For how simplistic a structure it sports, “Needs Fixing” has a charismatic complexity to its string-powered grooves that is rivaled only by the countrified sway of “Take a Holiday,” and though “Holiday” runs dangerously close to throwback pop territory, it stops just shy of going into such an unfortunate realm. No matter what tempo he’s playing at, or more importantly, how many components he’s working into a single song, there’s never a moment where we catch Jay Elle sounding out of touch with the audience, disconnected from his medium or hesitant in the statements that he’s trying to make in this music. This is as confident a singer/songwriter as I’ve come across in 2019, and that’s definitely saying something when taking into account just what a banner year it’s been for his genre.
Ease Up (Into Love)’s title track is also its most intricately constructed, but don’t let its stacked arrangement fool you – beneath all of the erudite detail, it too is a humble, harmony-laden folk jam with a magical moodiness almost guaranteed to put a smile on your face by the time it comes to a finish. To some degree, its melodies provide the perfect sample of what listeners can anticipate finding in all five of the songs that this EP contains, and though Ease Up doesn’t tell us anything that we didn’t already know about Jay Elle, it’s nevertheless one of the more concrete collections of pure American balladry that any audiophile, young or old, will likely hear this September.