If Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris needed to be rejuvenated after a few years off from that band, she seems to have found it. New group Elva, centered on Morris and her partner Ola Innset (of Making Marks and Sunturns), builds on the Allo Darlin indie pop formula, adding some rougher edges as needed while maintaining that pretty, melodic sensibility. Debut album Winter Sun gives the band a good start, finding Australian pop sounds (think Tender Trap or nearly anything at home on Matinee) to convey a series of thoughtful reflections, and, of course, the upside-down timing necessary to put out an album called Winter Sun in April.
The rejuvenation begins with opener “Athens”, which awakens with a beat that manages to be both bouncy and pensive. Morris shrugs off her fatigue as she and another feel restoration among the “antiquity” in the Greek city. When they “dreamed of bigger things,” Morris sings, “Something changed in me.” That changes creates an awareness of something bigger, a fuller outlook to be realized. The pursuit continues on “Tailwind”, a cut not without realism, but fully embracing “a deeper, higher meaning”, a feeling emboldened by a harsher guitar cutting through the clouds.
Some of the sense of rebirth likely stems from literal birth. Morris and Innset recently had a daughter, and parenthood plays a role in at least “Ghost Writer”, “Harbour in the Storm”, and “Everything Is Strange”. Elva consistently considers time; birth suggests aging, arrival suggests departure. The group frequently feels comfortable with these heavy feelings but never lets the emotion feel inconsequential. Innset acknowledges the vitality of parenthood: “In this time, in this place, with these people / I am needed and know just what to do.” At the same time, the pair already know they’ll be empty-nesters one day, and the contrast creates striking poignancy.
Morris captures the whole picture in “I Need Love”, a classic pop number that slowly builds as she describes a series of wintry images around her. Among the fog and cold and rain, she can still sing, “I believe we’re the lucky ones.” It’s this embrace of meaning and brightness that brings the sun to Elva’s winter. The album closes with a heavy nod to the Rolling Stones’ “As Time Goes By”, pedal steel thinking through a fuller vision. Rather than hearing only rain, Elva looks through the gray to greater clarity.
While Morris, Innset, and bandmates pursue a singular vision, they do it through the flexibility of sound, changing tempos and colors to consistently build nuance in their songs. The group doesn’t deviate far from their indie pop roots, but they know how to add touches like the guitar on “Airport Town” that give each song just what’s needed. Winter Sun offers much-needed light with both skill and heart.