Gentle string melodies and a soft rock groove are tossed into a sonic mixing bowl in Jay Elle’s “Needs Fixing,” and with every verse that the talented singer/songwriter croons to us, his command of the adjacent instrumental harmony grows all the stronger. In this track and the five others that accompany it in the brand new EP Ease Up, Elle finds a creative way of getting his point across to us, and even in barebones songs like this one, there’s never an instance where he leaves us feeling underwhelmed by his skillset. He’s really focused in this record, and as I see it, setting a new standard for his scene in general.
The tracklist here is really fluid, with each of the songs transitioning to the next as smoothly as they would in a live medley or an extended acoustic suite. As different in tone as “By the Blade” and “Sickly Sweet” are, they sound perfect together when played back to back (as was originally intended). Although he never draws from the same well twice, Elle’s signature songwriting style makes all of this music, experimental and simple alike, sound like a soundtrack designed to stimulate all of our senses at once.
There’s a little too much polish for my taste on the title track, “Ease Up (Into Love),” but the composition itself is quite strong just the same. Compared to his last couple of singles, Jay Elle sounds a bit more embracive of the mainstream pop model in this record, though I would stop short of saying that he’s given his music over to some commercial trend. He’s definitely doing all that he can to get every last bit of magic out of the melodies that fill “Take a Holiday” and “Sickly Sweet” with elegant tension, and the radio-ready finish aside, they’re probably the most evocative songs he’s recorded in his career thus far.
“By the Blade” and the title track are defined by their brooding lyricism, whereas “Sickly Sweet,” “Take a Holiday” and “Needs Fixing” tell us everything we need to know through the tonality of their instruments, and the duality between the two sets of songs is the biggest reason why I gravitated towards this record recently. Elle gives us the full-package in Ease Up; whether he’s getting deep with us in “By the Blade” and “Never Dreamed (I Could be the One)” or playing with his country influences in “Take a Holiday,” he’s doing everything that I would want a genuine singer/songwriter to do in this capacity.
After hearing all of the buzz surrounding the release of this record and now finally experiencing its songs for myself, I really can’t wait to hear more from Jay Elle. Elle is sounding complete and in control of every aspect of his music in this material, and while I might have arranged the tracklist a little differently and used a little less varnish on some of the record’s most emotive elements, there’s no denying how amazing the guts of its contents is. At its most fundamental, this is a four-star EP in a summer that has been filled with way more duds than studs.