Katie Ellen - Still Life (Cover Artwork)

Katie Ellen

Still Life (2018)

Lauren Records

Filled with tension and pensiveness. The guitar strum opening “Lighthouse” gives off an air of confidence rooted in that anticipation. The feeling is explored as Katie Ellen crashes the riff with the band resting into a mid-tempo jam falling between the lines of emo and indie. The song has singer/guitarist Anika Pyle contemplating partnership in neverending schedules with her singing, “you can’t get nowhere when the goings all gone.”

For those unfamiliar with Katie Ellen’s debut LP Sad Girls Club, it was a redefinition of self based in growth soundtracked by hazy indie guitars played with a nod to some of the band’s roots in a buzzed about pop-punk band. “Lighthouse” feels like the best version of that, but only hints at the growth found in their new EP Still Life.

The next song “City/Country” contains quieter verses driven by acoustics. It reflects on the duality of life in both places. The album’s lyrical topics are a shift in the ones explored on their previous release. Still Life, as the title suggests, delves into the terms of happiness while remaining in place and what produces it. There’s an ambition to the lyrics on this release in the descriptions of connection with a place, between people, or in a feeling. It’s a connection that values the meaningful over the transactional.

The ambition in the lyrics complements the growth in sound. Still Life has the band demonstrating it at every corner. “Adaption of Para Todos” starts with something akin to the fuzzy power-pop of a song like The Menzinger’s “Charlie’s Army” before transitioning into a wall of sound with infiltrating guitar feedback. The clicks of the ride cymbal and growing low end climatically finish in a swirl of instrumentation. “Still Life” is the standout track. It really highlights the band’s melodic chops. It wouldn’t sound too out of place on a Kacey Musgraves record before closing in a Paramore-esque choir backed sing-along.

If Still Life is a sign of things to come for Katie Ellen as EPs often are, they could find themselves mentioned alongside current indie luminaries. The ambition displayed here is rooted in the tension and pensiveness found in its accompanying confidence.