Ellis
Born Again


4.0
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
April 5th, 2020 | 104 replies


Release Date: 04/03/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A near flawless dream-pop debut from an artist mature beyond her years.

What’s most striking about Born Again isn’t its breathtakingly luminous atmosphere. It’s not that Linnea Siggelkow (who goes by her stage name Ellis) seamlessly blends iridescent dream pop and riff-driven indie rock. What’s really impressive is her musical maturity. Born Again is Siggelkow’s full-length debut – a fact that’s easily missed because she’s so stately in her approach, which sounds like a seasoned amalgamation of styles. This record is essentially a series of dream pop slow burners; evocative vignettes that shimmer and build, sometimes to an immense payoff. Glistening production, remarkable consistency, and superb songwriting are not things you would necessarily expect from an artist’s premier effort, yet Born Again feels – for lack of more careful praise – perfect.

Opener ‘Pringle Creek’ does little to dissuade such reckless hyperbole. As waves of electric guitar shake Eliis loose from her dreamy, ethereal haze, she muses that relationships feel “like buying flowers just to watch them die”, and it jolts Born Again to life. By the end of the song we’re immersed in a nearly minute long guitar solo, and it’s clear at this point that Ellis isn’t content to have her brand of dream-pop simply float by. That’s what makes ‘Pringle Creek’ the ideal overture, embodying the album’s penchant for mesmerizing synths, sugary melodies, and grandiose climaxes all tidily contained within your typical-for-pop song length. Ellis’ craft feels so established in part because of this hell-bent focus on efficiency: songs rarely clock in over four minutes (once, to be precise), and the whole album breezes by in thirty. Despite its transient aura, Born Again is never hurting for content – its lean body the result of cherry picking the very best moments from an exhaustive writing process.

Born Again excels in nearly every facet of its carefully selected niche. The “dreamy” atmosphere serves as an overarching canopy, but each song possesses a unique melody to muscle it a few feet apart from the others. It also avoids the post-rock fatigue of having every song culminate in a grand cacophony: ‘March 13’ is an elegant piano ballad through and through, ‘Happy’ is one minute of depressing introspection (“I'm trying my best to remember a time I wasn't sad…it's hard to admit that I still wanna die sometimes”), and the title track’s subtle optimism (“You reached out your hand and offered me a new beginning”) belies the echoed sadness in Ellis’ voice. Siggelkow’s thoughtful placement of every song allows the peaks to feel absolutely monumental, which is certainly the case on ‘Into the Trees’, where she rather abruptly shifts from melancholic croons to cascading synths and electric riffs. Perhaps the most sonically jaw-dropping moment comes on the closing ‘Zhuangzi’s Dream’, where Ellis slowly progresses from acoustic verses atop hazy reverb to what might only be described as a dream-pop breakdown – thunderous drums, searing synth lines, and a guitar solo that sounds lost in outer space all cap off the most naturally beautiful vocal melody on the entire record. Linnea Siggelkow bides her time brilliantly, affording all ten songs a chance to shine.

The only knock on Born Again is that it is so clean cut and, well, “perfect”; almost like that straight-A student you keep wishing would let loose and do something dangerous for once. It feels strange to use perfection as a possible criticism, but Born Again – for all of its shimmering production and memorable songwriting – could benefit from a little more experimentation. As it stands, it is basically the ideal mixture of Clairo’s Immunity, Hatchie’s Keepsake, and Soccer Mommy’s Color Theory. That’s an incredible space to fill, and Ellis could rightfully keep churning out pristine gems such as this one for the foreseeable future. However, if she wants to elevate her game to the next level, she might throw caution to the wind on her sophomore effort by mixing in strings, brass, woodwinds, or something to throw listeners off balance. Considering how well Born Again functions on its own merits though, this is more advice than it is negative critique.

Born Again is easily one of the best indie-rock/dream-pop debuts to come out in years. Siggelkow’s firm handle on her sound is genuinely remarkable – it seems like she’s been doing this for decades and that Born Again is the album that finally ties it all together. Instead, we see Ellis beginning where some artists could only dream of arriving – a lean, sweepingly beautiful statement of an album that is breathtakingly atmospheric and occasionally rock-driven. With what is basically a flawless debut already in her wake, it would be difficult to imagine her further refining this approach. With one frontier already conquered, Ellis is set up to branch out however she sees fit - and if Born Again is any indication, she's only just scratched the surface of her massive potential.




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user ratings (83)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
JesperL
April 5th 2020


704 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yess, this is so perfect for the nice weather today. great review, love the description of a 'dream pop breakdown' lol!

Digging: Mumrunner - Valeriana

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 5th 2020


34534 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks, appreciate it! This is so gorgeous I can barely stand it. I've been handing out far too many 4.5's lately but this could have easily been another.

Digging: Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 4

Ashen
April 5th 2020


1514 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

listening to this now and the songwriting is really very thoughtful... enjoying it a lot so far.

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
April 6th 2020


19767 Comments


Sounds interesting.

Digging: The Move - Shazam

nightbringer
April 6th 2020


1227 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I loved Hatchie so will give this a spin.

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 6th 2020


34534 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This isn't upbeat/danceable like Hatchie, but the dream-pop atmosphere is similar. The vocals remind me of a halfway point between Clairo and Soccer Mommy. The songwriting is pretty great too.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 6th 2020


25812 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

"a series of dream pop slow burners; evocative vignettes that shimmer and build, sometimes to an immense payoff"



^this + the aesthetic!!! of that art have got me intrigued; fingers crossed it's better than Hatchie ;]

Digging: Susumu Yokota - Symbol

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 6th 2020


34534 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's dreamy pop that aims for for introspection with guitar-laden peaks. Not sure if that's your thing or not to be honest, but if you're already intrigued, I'd definitely recommend a follow-through listen.

tyman128
April 6th 2020


1950 Comments


this catches my eye, gonna have to check this out later

EclipseInYourEyes
April 6th 2020


1376 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

sounds great so far. Shame is amazing

Digging: The Sugarcubes - Life's Too Good

JesperL
April 6th 2020


704 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ahh i think i finally realised what this reminds me of, it sounds like fazerdaze if fazerdaze got really sad, haha

EclipseInYourEyes
April 6th 2020


1376 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

second half falls a little flat tho

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 6th 2020


34534 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Second half is the best part to me. Closing trio is my favorite part other than Pringle Creek.

BenThatsMyJamin
April 6th 2020


3103 Comments


is this budgiecore

theblacklodge
April 6th 2020


2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The melody of "Embarrassing" made me remember a similar melody from a totally unrelated song by a totally unrelated band. But it's there now and I can't un-hear it, and it makes me love it even more... See: "Don't Push Love Away" by The Juliana Theory.

dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
April 6th 2020


1301 Comments


Was really curious about this, Spotify kept pushing the singles on me, which I for sure enjoyed

Digging: Owen Pallett - Island

Trifolium
April 7th 2020


16005 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is nice!

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 7th 2020


25812 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

Gonna give this a follow-up as suggested, on the fence so far

Trifolium
April 7th 2020


16005 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It gets a littttllee too smooth and polished for my tastes sometimes, but there are genuine moments of greatness. Within 3.2-3.4 range now.

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 7th 2020


34534 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think that's what I meant when I said it can get a little too "perfect". This could have been even better with a few risks. That said, she definitely achieved exactly what she set out to, and it encompasses most of the ideals of a dream pop record. I still say the closing trio of songs are the best here, that really elevated this for me.



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