Buzz- Dive in: Local singer-songwriter drops sultry, emotional debut
What's the point of being subtle when it feels so good to get all emotions on the table? For local singer-songwriter Travis Elliott, such catharsis comes in the form of his debut album, Swandive–- a gritty, yet heartfelt, relationship album. But before you start to nay-say emotionally-based music, be warned: if this is a "break-up" album, it takes the old standard of emotional music–- whiny, heart-broken, pathetically bitter–- and blows it away.
"It's a very haunting record," says Elliott, 31. "I'm using these songs as coping mechanisms for various relationships I've had–- it's a hell of an outlet."
For his first full-length record, Elliott wasted no time hemming and hawing around. Although his live show is generously more acoustic, Swandive is ambitiously packed with cellos and vocal collaborators–- including an Elliott ex, local folk-pop sweetheart Mariana Bell, while local production guru and Falsies' chicken-suited drummer Lance Brenner lent his producing skills.
"Lance totally came in when we were at a standstill and turned something that was slightly dated to something that was more relevant to my life now," Elliott says. "Sometimes when you have new songs come out, the old become little red-headed step-children you don't really care about–- Lance breathed new life into these songs."
The entire affair is tinged with punk-rock aesthetics–- most notably in the oftentimes brutal lyrical bluntness–- rolled into a harmony-laden pop-rock base mixed with a healthy dose of piano and strings. The resulting sound leaves the listener at once strangely aroused and goosebumpy.
"It almost tells the story of an entire relationship–- it's a complete feeling from start to finish," Elliott says.
Indeed, the emotions channeled on Swandive are pretty clear, even from glancing over the song titles: "Release," "Waking Up," Backwards Fall," "Rearview"–- all conjure chapters in a roller-coaster relationship, from the first butterflies to the harrowing end. Yet none of the arty ambiguity of the album's seven song titles carry over into the lyrics themselves.
"You would f*** anyone who could put you on the cover of a magazine," sings Elliott in the second line of "Waking Up," before crooning, "Could you watch this life you love just walk away? / Could you walk us back to fix our yesterday? / This time, it's not okay. / Doesn't matter, it was only a mistake" on "Backwards Fall."
Aptly, the most poignant moment is the closer, "Miles Away," a duet between Elliott and Bell, whose voice, accompanied by the cello, is deliciously crisp and sultry, full of longing–- but for what, we can't be sure. Nevertheless, as the final punctuation mark on Elliott's "feeling" of an album, it is acoustically twangy and emotionally jerking. Expect tears to well if you're already in that kind of a mood.
Coincidentally, Bell will be in town for Elliott's acoustic album release at Ventana; expect to see the pair reunited–- briefly–- for a tender guitar and strings rendition.
Travis Elliott releases Swandive at an acoustic release party on Thursday, July 15 at Ventana (the show starts at 10pm and tickets are free) and follows it with an electric set on Wednesday, July 21 at Rapture (where the show also starts at 10pm and the tickets are free).