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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Elska (Minnesota)

On the Shoulders of Giants

Review by Gary Hill

There is a little bit of confusion to resolve here. Larry Toering previously reviewed an album by an artist named "Elska." That's not the same person as this artist, and in fact, that's not a real person. It turns out it's a character created by a duo from Brooklyn.

This Elska is a very real person who hails from the Minneapolis area. I previously reviewed the opening track of this set in a various artists collection. This album could almost fit under the progressive rock heading as "art rock." Ultimately I decided to put it under non-prog, though, because I think the non-art music elements are the dominant ones. What you can count on here, though, are deep lyrical content, intriguing songwriting and arrangements and strong vocal performances. This is really quite a potent release. Given that it's the debut from this artist, it bodes well for great things to come.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
On the Shoulders of Giants

There is a dramatic build-up at the start of this tune. It drops back to mellower, roots-based sound from there. Vocals join in a gentle way over the top. The cut gets more powered up at times. It really has some lush, art rock type sounds and textures at points. I previously reviewed this as part of a various artists set and said this about it, " There is a soaring alternative beauty to this number. It is one of the strongest and most effective cuts here." That holds true here, too.

You First
There is a spacey kind of prog element at play on this cut. That said, the number is also set heavily in a more pop-oriented zone. The whole thing really lands under art rock, though. It's an effective song with some particularly tasty synthesizer elements.
Endless Winter
There is a pretty, soaring quality to this track. It's perhaps more closely related to pop music than art rock, but there are art elements at play. This makes me think of Celine Dion to some degree.
Stand Together
I like the driving pop rock concept of this. The vocal hooks and arrangement are classy. There is a triumphant vibe to the piece. I love the positive message. The whole piece works really well.
Hummingbird
A bouncy, poppy cut, there is a lot of jazzy sensibility in the mix here. The tune has a playful vibe to it. The vocal arrangement is rich, and the song is just a good time. Of course, the lyrics do have a deeper meaning than you get on the surface.
Last Tree on Earth
This song has an important message. The cut is set in a driving rock mode, but there are art music elements in the arrangement. It has a great balance between more powered up and mellower moments.
Caroline

Piano is a big part of the arrangement as this gets underway. The vocals enter in a gentle way. This gets dramatic and more intense, but doesn't move too far from its origins.

Second Hand
This piece gets into some of the hardest rocking sounds of the whole disc. Yet, it also gets tempered by mellower art rock movements.
Still Standing Still

There is a soaring, building concept at the heart of this number It does have a lot of emotion and some dramatic proggy elements, but it also has plenty pop styled texture.

Stop Talking

I like the electronic elements of this, but at its core this is more of a mainstream pop rock piece. The lyrics are pretty deep.

Happy in the Now
There is a lot of energy and drive to this number. It's more of an artsy, proggy rocker. It has a lot of class and style.
Gratitude
A soaring number, this isn't a big change from the rest of the set. Instead, it's an effective piece that fits well and does a good job of finishing the experience in style.
 
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