Not from Elk City, Oklahoma (but named after an Elk City in West Virginia, band member Ray Ketchem’s home state), this Elk City is actually based in NYC and has been around since 1997. Their fifth album, Everybody’s Insecure, is due out March 16 on legendary Hoboken label Bar/None Records. A concise collection of ten songs incorporating the best of folk-rock and dream-pop, Everybody’s Insecure glides along on the angelic/sonic vocals of Renee LoBue, the emotional guitar of Sean Eden, and drummer Ketchem’s at-times otherworldly production…all held together with Carl Baggaley’s keyboards and Martin Olson’s bass. They’ve since added another member, guitarist Chris Robertson.
Opening track “Sparrow” kicks off with a perfect post-punk-ish bass line, then soars through the skies with a gorgeous hook and lyric courtesy of LoBue: “I don’t know if I’ll ever be as free as a sparrow / I’ll try, I’ll try, I’ll try.” “He’s Having a Baby” starts out like a lullaby then explodes into a bright, optimistic, jangle-pop gem. “Ride the Slide” is propelled by Baggaley’s electric piano and playful synths. The title cut, “Everybody’s Insecure,” features some unusually-phrased vocals and beautiful, echoey guitars.
“My Manual” tiptoes along, then goes out rockin’, followed by the album’s shining moment, the mysterious and incredibly catchy “25 Lines,“ inspired by a writing exercise whereby LoBue wrote 25 individual, unrelated lines per day, resulting in the song’s cryptic quality. And expect “25 Lines” to be an ‘alternative’ radio hit this spring – it’s that good. Especially the bridge, which has been compared – accurately – to David Bowie. “Root Beer Shoes” name-checks Bukowski and Hemingway before going nearly orchestral, then it’s time for the slow-dance closer, “Souls in Space,” with its sad/happy refrain, “Always together.”
Elk City was originally formed as a spin-off of the Melting Hopefuls, who released a handful of records in the early 90s on various small labels. Ray Ketchem has also worked as a producer/engineer for luminaries like Guided By Voices, Luna, and Okkervil River. The band has appeared at local venues the Mercury Lounge and Bowery Electric, so keep an eye ‘n’ ear out. In the meantime, check out their stunning version of the Motels’ “Suddenly Last Summer” – as well as a nice interview with Renee LoBue on NPR.org, from back when the last Elk City album came out in 2010.
Images courtesy crosscountryroads.com, bar-none.com, facebook.com
“25 Lines” preview courtesy glidemagazine.com; “Suddenly Last Summer” courtesy ghettoblastermagazine.com