ELK CITY – UNDERTOW
A SPILL EXCLUSIVE ALBUM PREMIERE
It’s been a year since we last explored the rad sonic output of one of New Jersey’s most interesting art-rock collectives. Known as ‘Elk City’, we last visited them with the release of their Above The Water album. At this time, we have the pleasure of introducing our readers to the band’s newest album – Undertow is their seventh to date.
This is a fascinating listen with the band’s usually clever lyrics, winning arrangements and superb production, but with a seemingly darker underbelly than their previous album. “Tried to Move On” and “Keep It” may be the happier of the bunch, with a more uplifting indie pop flavour, but it’s the duskier rabbit hole-type of explorations that really make this album stand out as one of the best albums of 2023. “Pathaway”, “Undertow” and “Ride The Surf” take us on lush green untrodden roads, while “Strong” and “Messenger” lure us into the best realms of sonic eras passed. From start to finish, this is a solid offering – a thoroughly pleasing and inspired aural experience.
Inspired by the band’s love of documentaries like ‘The Source Family’ and ‘Wild, Wild Country’ – films that explore the allure of cults and extreme alternative lifestyles – this record is released by Montclair, NJ-based Magic Door Record Label, co-founded by Guided by Voices‘ Kevin March, producer Ray Ketchem and artist Renée LoBue.
Ketchem, who is known for his work with Guided By Voices, Luna and Gramercy Arms) also recorded, mixed and mastered this Undertow album at his Magic Door Recording Studio, which is not surprising since he is also a key element of this band, having founded it with LoBue. The 5-piece also includes Luna’s Sean Eden, Richard Baluyut (Versus) and Chris Robertson (Psychedelic Furs side project Feed, Punch Havana).
Undertow is the companion piece to our 2022 album Above The Water. Both albums were recorded simultaneously. We actually considered releasing them together as a double album. Undertow is the darker of the two. Numerous songs on Undertow are long and sprawling and take the listener on unexpected adventures. Of course, there are a few pop songs too. Like all our albums, there are pop songs, but Undertow has a musical darkness that is unique to this release, yet lyrically it seems to be about independence and personal strength,” says Ray Ketchem.
Renée LoBue adds, “The most interesting thing about these records (to me) is that the water theme was not planned. The water theme revealed itself to us after. Even more ironic: The cover art pieces that were chosen for both records have water themes. I created both pieces of art before the records were done. At the time I didn’t realize they were part of a larger water theme expressed in the music. Upon completion, we were able to look at both the art + the music with a way more objective lens. We could see the hidden theme looking back at us. It had been there all along.”
Even after seven albums, Elk City are still deliberately hard to define, still seekers, unafraid to shed this life and lead the listener on a journey to new sounds and feelings. And as long as they remain curious, they will report back what they have found, with albums like Undertow, packed with siren songs to lure you in and fill you with a devout ecstasy, body and soul. You came here looking for something. And now you know.As of Friday, The Undertow album can be had from Apple Music, Spotify and Bandcamp and many other platforms. On September 30, Elk City will be playing a reunion show for the 90’s band Velocity Girl at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom, followed by a December 1 show with Ted Leo in their hometown of Montclair, NJ.
Written and performed by Elk City
Renée LoBue – vocals
Sean Eden – guitars
Chris Robertson – guitars, backing vocals
Richard Baluyut – bass, synths, backing vocals
Ray Ketchem – drums, synths, sounds
Claudia Chopek – violin
Recorded, mixed and masted by Ray Ketchem
Produced by Ray Ketchem
Created at Magic Door Recording, Montclair, NJ
© 2023 sound is crazy music (BMI)
Single cover artwork by Renée LoBue
‘Strong’ video directed, filmed and edited by Ray Ketchem
featuring Renée LoBue, Chris Robertson and Richard Baluyut
‘Strong’ video filmed at Eagle Rock Reservation & Kip’s Castle Park, Essex County NJ
Also enjoy the band’s latest audio-visual offerings:
(Magic Door Record Label)
Release Date: September 22, 2023