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.
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.
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.