Music

E.S.L.: Eye Contact

A band that consists of piano, cello, violin, and drums. An all-female group unafraid to cover Neil Young and the Beastie Boys. A song that compares a lover to Secretariat. E.S.L. is all of these things.


E.S.L.

Eye Contact

Contributors: Lou Reed, Beastie Boys
Label: Jericho Beach Music
US Release Date: 2008-05-15
UK Release Date: Unavailable
Website
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

E.S.L. is a group of four women from Vancouver, and their album Eye Contact is a wide-ranging collection of songs that takes full advantage of their unusual line-up of piano, cello, violin, and drums. Marta Jaciubek-McKeever is the lead singer and piano player, and her breathy, emotional voice is a good fit for the material. With the wealth of piano players and strings in pop and indie music over the past decade, E.S.L. doesn't sound particularly exotic, but this is a nicely arranged album that dabbles in dark pop, love ballads, interesting covers, and forays into jazz and blues.

"Prove Me Wrong" is a swing tune, an angry minor-key song from the standpoint of a jealous lover. It features muted trumpets, lots of sound effects from cellist Cris Derksen and violin player Dionna Davies, and a nice jazzy drum solo from Joy Mullen. Later on, "Walk With Me" delivers a bluesy lounge ballad driven by Jaciubek-McKeever's piano and accentuated with what sounds like improvisation from Davies on the violin. The swirling instrumental "Princess Vs. Dragon" is constructed similarly to a classical music rondo, with recurring A and B themes at the beginning and end, and an extended C section in the middle.

On the poppier side of things, there's album-opener "Secretariat", which finds Jaciubek-McKeever comparing the love of her life to the famous racehorse over a pulsing dark piano riff and brief violin cadenzas from Davies. "I Don't Buy It" uses softly plucked violin and cello, as well as some subtle vibraphone, in the slow-paced verses while accelerating and upping the volume in the full-bodied chorus. By the time the song hits the four-minute mark, the band is going all-out in an Arcade Fire-style orchestral climax. It's an impressive moment, made all the more impressive by the fact that it's the only time E.S.L. attempts it on the album. It really works, and the band shows admirable restraint by not trying to go for that huge moment repeatedly.

"Side by Side" and "Like a Hurricane" are the album's two slow love songs. It's here that Jaciubek-McKeever's voice really shows its power. The former song is filled with an aching longing, as Jaciubek-McKeever sings in first-person from the perspective of a broken, emotionally wrecked woman who realizes that her lover is the only person who sees she still has something left inside. And then she turns it around at the end of the song by revealing it was her lover who broke her in the first place. "Like a Hurricane" is a Neil Young cover, cast here as a slow-paced duet between Jaciubek-McKeever and Duffy Driedger of Ladyhawk, and heavily featuring the band's string section.

The album wraps with another trio of covers, starting with the Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs". Probably not a great choice, but E.S.L.'s instrumentation and the addition of a French horn makes it an interesting listen. This one is also presented as a duet, with a guest male vocalist simply listed as the Dark. The band has more luck with "Czarne Oczy", a traditional Polish medley sung in the original language by the Polish-born Jaciubek-McKeever and her father Irek Jaciubek. It's a bouncy song and it sounds like everyone involved is having fun performing it. The album ends on a goofy note as cellist Cris Derksen steps up to the microphone to sing the Beastie Boys' "Girls."

There is a lot of variety on Eye Contact, and E.S.L. makes almost everything work. It's nice to hear the violin and cello integrated so well as full-time instruments in what's essentially a pop band. "I Don't Buy It" and "Side By Side" are the real standout tracks here, but there isn't a bad song on the album.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image