It’s four in the morning and I’m currently listening to Eleni Drake, an artist I discovered not two hours ago via a YouTube cover of hers. Her latest record “Can’t Stop The Dawn” is a sensation of familiarity and comfort yet is kept fresh by superb songwriting. Every now and then, a certain artist will hook me in. Usually, it’s a single with a particularly catchy or unique aspect to it. It is very rare when I can sit and listen to a previously unheard full album with no breaks. To compare, the last time this happened was for Neil Young’s “Harvest” two years ago. But I have to say, Eleni, I am entranced.
“Tense Tranquillity” is the term I am going to use to describe the sensation that the sublime Eleni Drake is serving listeners on this album. Wonderful, delicate guitar work underpins the entire record, but the vocal melodies are so hauntingly beautiful and eery. The ability to create tension and release in songwriting is such a difficult skill to develop and Eleni demonstrates her mastery of this on every single track. On the other end of the spectrogram, I ADORE the bass playing across the entire album. It’s so wonderfully placed, restrained and oh so impactful. There is other instrumentation used across the record, always used with restraint and always to serve the song. Some sounds I can’t even identify which instrument is making them, such as the drone on the opening track “Sun Bear”. It seems like every piece of this puzzle was so carefully constructed to fit into every place.
This is most definitely a guitar players album. And while in most cases, to have one instrument stand above the rest would be a detriment to the vibe of a record, Eleni seems to have that Marr-esque quality to know exactly what to play at any given moment. It truly shocks me that she, a lefty, is playing this well on a right-handed guitar flipped upside down. That is not to deny her superb vocal performance, I absolutely love the use of harmonies on tracks such as “Ribbons” and there are some great lyrical moments. The opening lines to “Sun Bear” give me chills.
I’d absolutely love an insight into the production of this album, everything sounds perfect and is mixed to perfection. I can hear every single part of the instrumentation both separately and as a whole piece. That is a sure-fire sign of a great mix. Getting the interwoven guitar parts, especially with heavy use of reverb to sit correctly with everything else is truly an accomplishment.
This truly is a perfect record. It’s not overly catchy, but who says it must be? “Can’t Stop The Dawn” is drenched in charm and atmosphere. I’d love to hear this live. Finding Eleni Drake is so exciting to me, as a sound guy for an open mic in my home city of Derby, the discovery process here has been exactly like sitting behind the desk and hearing an absolutely astonishing performance out of a sea of other mediocre singer-songwriters.. This is not a genre I am overly engrossed in, but I immediately want to find more like this. The only caveat I would add is that I would not wish to hear a second album from Eleni with a similar soundscape, otherwise, the overabundance of guitar, while superb, can get stale. I really want to see her sound develop in new ways and I will be following her career with interest going forward. If there is one thing I can say about this album, it is that it takes me home. With all the comfort that brings.
Peace, Love & Cowbells,