by Josiah Hesse
After being teased with a string of hypnotic live shows and a killer EP, the wait is finally over: Ancient Elk’s full-length debut album has finally arrived. Blending sixties psych-pop, country-rock and post-war jazz, Ancient Elk is a cozy, mid-tempo record that strikes a delicate balance between sexy playfulness and eerie darkness. The production is reminiscent of the swampy New Orleans aesthetic of Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, which is complimented by a dreamy organ and layered vocal harmonies. You can discern the large personalities of the three songwriters in the eclecticism of each tune: Megan Crooks’ deep, smoky vocals and swinging time signatures (ala Sarah Vaughan), Anna Smith’s fragile twee melodies, like a child-ghost singing from an abandoned attic, and Cody Coffey’s soaring falsetto evoking the best moments of My Morning Jacket, sitting atop the sentimental country sensibility of Graham Parsons. They’re three very different sounds that glean from segregated regions of culture, time and geography, but are fused together with a consistent identity thanks to a versatile rhythm section (which, sadly, suffered from the untimely death of bassist Kyle McQueen earlier this year). And, in one of the most inventive attempts to materialize recorded music in the 21st century, Ancient Elk are selling this album as a coloring book (with art by Denver’s own Hunter Dragon, Jordan Lempe, Ilya Litoshik, Shira Roth and others), which contains a QR code providing instant download of the album onto your phone or tablet. Neat, eh?
Check out Ancient Elk at ancientelk.bandcamp.com