Can you imagine you’re sitting in the apartment of a man (and I say man because he’s married, which is one of the things that transforms boys into men in my mind) and he suddenly becomes a voice? Singlehandedly changing from another regular guy just shooting the shit and giving you some wine, into this treasure chest of music? I’m talking about Elijah Ocean in case you didn’t read the title of this post for some reason. That’s his real name by the way, perhaps he was imbued with the desire to be a singer/songwriter early on simply because his name is tailored perfectly for the job. Aside from thankfully getting a copy of his album handed to me by my ever resourceful roommate Kyle Garnett (you should check out his art right here), I had the further pleasure of being present for the live session Elijah and his band mate Eric recorded in a Brooklyn living room for GoldFlakePaint. By this time I had already listened to his new record “Tumble & Fall” approximately 37 times, so I could focus on how the live experience differed from the recorded music, which is one of the things I really like focusing on.
As I was saying, the transformation was particularly good in the case of Elijah. I’d met him once before and been like “huh what a nice bro” which is kind of the same vibe I had this time, until he started singing. American-Folk-Alt-Country music is kind of my thing, so when he busted out the triple threat whiskey-tinged-voice-guitar-playing-harmonica combination on me I got a little excited. ‘Girl From The Hill’, the song featured in the Gold Flake Paint video is easily my favorite on the record, and it perfectly showcases Ocean’s writing style. A style that is highly subjective and yet manages to convey a message deep enough and universal enough that I can easily imagine this song was written about me, and it is so good that I wish it was.
In addition to Ocean’s voice, the record is littered with harmonies by Eric Ambrose, and the complementary way their two voices meld is a rare feat. Especially on ‘The Diplomat’ and ‘Her Eyes Don’t Lie’ I am continually impressed upon each listen how well the two flow together vocally. Released on the label that Ocean himself started, New Wheel Music, and recorded entirely in analog at Dirt Floor Studios, the record came out in the beginning of April and has been in constant rotation for me ever since.
Warm, smokey, laced with honey and rough around the edges like a piece of cedar siding, Elijah Ocean’s voice couldn’t have come into my life at a better time. Isn’t that how most great things come to us? Out of the blue and without any announcement except that feeling of rightness. That confirmation that yes, there are still people out there making the kind of music that resonates, that is made for a purpose beyond money or fame. That is made simply because it must be made. All Americana and musky, emotion-ridden tunes, Ocean sings sad songs without being pathetic and sings happy ones with the grin of a troubadour. You can stream the album via Soundcloud below, but I’ve tried both, and it sounds much better on vinyl.