Ill Ease – Live at the Holiday Sin

Ill Ease
Live at the Holiday Sin

When I first glanced at the promo information for Ill Ease, I was not pleased. It said that Live at the Holiday Sin was recorded by Elizabeth Sharp solely in a motel room in Atlantic City. This seemed to scream “solo acoustic project” to me, and coupled with the laughable pun in the album title, I was not jumping at the chance to review this record. So I put it off for a couple of weeks and did everything else in my promo pile first. Last week, I ran out of promos and was finally forced to put on Ill Ease. Much to my surprise, I was treated to one of the most positively surprising listening experiences in recent memory.
Let’s get one thing straight – Ill Ease is not some little acoustic project. Over the course of 10 songs and 50+ minutes, Sharp proves herself to be a grand purveyor of upbeat indie garage funk, rhythm-obsessed excursions about cheap sex, cheap love, lost love, and lost sex. And if the danceable textures on this album seem to betray the heavy-handed subject matter, worry not: this is funk a la Sonic Youth and Modest Mouse, mired in a bog of knotted distortion and swampy voices. Sharp runs a bleak confessional sex gamut, and while she’s not quite Liz Phair, she’s not quite not, either.
It is indeed true that this entire album was recorded in a motel room, and it’s reported that Sharp recorded every instrument on the album herself. This is an impressive feat, since she mixes the rhythms with the distorted guitars and the playful keyboards so well. Such editorial discretion is rarely found in a solo project. Everything from the playful keyboards of “Ruler of the Ho-Dum” to the run-n-gun bass throb of “Dear Krazy” works perfectly.
Sharp proves herself time and time again to be an excellent musician and composer. Her rhythmic squall and guitar feedback too often cover her songwriting talents, but in the end, it all fits. If I have one complaint, it’s that Sharp could mix up the tempos more often and come up with a more moderated album. Still, the 10 tracks on this album race by at a breakneck, dirty-funk pace, raging against violent, sex-ridden lyrics that aren’t used to such speeds. Ill Ease has turned in a whip-smart, very original piece of DIY rock, and it’s not to be missed.