Heart-on-sleeve soliloquies are not difficult to encounter these days. Online, vulnerability has become the norm. But, while many people’s earnest reflections are heard by their family and Instagram followers, some have a broader reach.
Artists like Phoebe Bridgers and Big Thief have cut through an era of unprecedented media saturation with beautifully wrought music prizing honesty above all else. Denver’s Ellsworth has struck a similar vein with her eponymous 11-song LP, traversing anxiety, self-doubt and lost love in gorgeously graceful strides.
“When we push away our feelings of sadness or anxiety, we are in fact pushing away a part of ourselves. We can choose to accept how we feel, which is who we are.” said Ellsworth, “We can choose to grow from our pain.”
Throughout the LP, Ellsworth brings her earnest message to life through vivid metaphorical language.
“There were cracks in the foundation that I was built upon. Filling them with pudding, that should get the job done,” she sings on “Growing Pains.” “My hands are tired of slipping. My nails are nearly gone. Floorboards peeling up, this is what my mind’s become.”
This tragic poetry is brought to life through her voice. Like Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath, Ellsworth sings softly but with immense conviction. Her quiet tone conveys intimacy, like an earnest conversation meant for one person’s ears in a crowded room.
Instrumentation on the LP is driven by Ellsworth’s acoustic guitar, but weaves in restrained keyboard, electric guitar and percussion as well, swelling and fading with the emotional arc of each song. On “Anxiety,” harmonic drones create atmospheric soundscapes, while “Fall” is propelled by a country shuffle.
Ellsworth is as good an antidote to the widespread social isolation and existential anxiety of 2021 as any. In just a handful of masterfully crafted folk songs, she taps into the shared trauma of a generation. Surely worth a listen all the way through, “Close the Door,” “Growing Pains” and “Overboard” are all excellent places to start.