Elf Power – The Winter is Coming

Elf Power
The Winter is Coming

Ah, now this is what indie rock/pop is all about. Bands like Guided By Voices, Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel and others all come to mind when listening to Elf Power’s latest full-length album. Because what you have here is 55 minutes of some of the best quirky indie pop released this year. Giving a nod to their Elephant 6 leanings as well as showing their penchant for distortion-laden rock, Elf Power has crafted some fine songs.
Elf Power has long been associated with the Elephant 6 bands, and that’s obvious on this album as well. They show off their penchant for Brian Wilson-esque pop melodies and blazes of quirky, off-beat, throw-back pop. But Elf Power is much more accessible than some of the work from bands like Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel. This album contains powerful rock songs in addition to the quirky pop songs you might expect. And while some of the other Elephant 6 bands thrive on originality and unique elements, Elf Power has built very full, rich songs for this album.
Probably one of the catchiest and most powerful songs on the album is the opener, “Embrace the Crimson Tide,” which perhaps gives a nod to the band’s southern leanings. With a march-like drum beat, the song has a steady, almost chant-like beat and some great rhythm guitar and keyboards. “Skeleton” moves the band into Sonic Youth territory, with distortion-laden guitars and high-pitched vocals. Now “The Great Society,” a sing-along, Beatles-esque ditty full of unusual household noises, might be more what you’d expect from the band, but they follow it up with “The Winter is Coming,” which is a charming pop song that is more reminiscent of bands like Belle & Sebastian. “Wings of Light” is a spooky, almost folk-inspired song that has a host of horns and other instruments making up the background. Songs like “People Underneath” are typical Elf Power songs, featuring distorted guitar, a light, airy pop rhythm, and odd, otherworldly lyrics. Probably the most infectious and charming song here is the playful “The Naughty Villain,” which is so bouncy and bleepy, you can’t help but love it. “Birds in the Backyard” is softer and uses male and female vocals for an interesting, duo-effect, and the song reminds me a bit of Apples in Stereo. “100,000 Telescopes” reminds me more of Olivia Tremor Control, all off-beat and slightly chaotic in a cohesive pop sense. And the closer, “The Albatross” (what Elephant 6 band can record an album without mentioning an albatross?), is a 10-minute moody, distortion-laden rocker, with doom-impending vocals and strange lyrics. And that’s the charm of songs like this.
Fans of Elf Power may fear that the band has become too accessible, but don’t fear. They still have that sort of thrown-together feel that gives you the impression the band is finding instruments lying around the house and performing wonderful and endearing pop songs on them. And while some songs are more rock-focused or more straight-forward, there are still the playful, bouncing, quirky pop songs that bands like this have perfected. This is great stuff, certainly for fans of any of the bands mentioned above.