Jay Elle’s six song EP release Ease Up kicks off with its title song “Ease Up (Into Love)”. Leading off with a title song is often a strong indication of how much faith a songwriter has in their material and that doesn’t seem to be an exception here. The song is built around acoustic guitar and well balanced percussion, but the musical highlight of the track is the vocal presentation. Elle possesses a warm and inviting voice that takes flight during the harmonies – they are lush without ever seeming ostentatious and peak with the song’s chorus. His melodic talents are in full evidence with this pop infused singer/songwriter gem.
“Take a Holiday”, the EP’s second track, incorporates a light electric touch and less acoustic than the title track, but the song shares the same airy production and effervescent rhythmic slant as the opener. Elle’s lyrics are intelligent and thoughtful without ever becoming inordinately involved and he displays a keen instinct for never weighing down the track with unnecessary verbiage. The immense likability of this opening duo never comes at the expense of Elle’s artistic foundation – these are intensely human songs and not fluff pop with solid musicianship behind the performers.
There’s some excellent backing and harmony vocals highlighting “Needs Fixing” and they reach their pinnacle with the song’s chorus. Elle never adopts a heavy handed approach in these moments, however, and they are orchestrated within the larger context of the track. The third song takes on much of the same sonic identity we hear with the EP’s second cut – a muted electric influence running through the performance, but the uptempo pace of the song in comparison to the earlier songs makes for an ear-catching shifting of gears.
“By the Blade” has a much more modern sound than heard during the first three songs. The electric guitar sound has a brittle edge unlike the previous two songs and there’s a rugged spirit lighting up this performance missing until now. The tension filling this track gives a much different spin to the EP at this point and the change in direction gives Ease Up a distinctly different tint over half way in. The second to last selection “Never Dreamed (I Could Be the One)” has an eighties pop influence without ever embracing its tackier inclinations and its melodic merits are among the EP’s best. Elle delivers one of his most likable performances on the collection.
The clean guitar tone defining the earlier tracks reaches another peak with the EP’s last track “Sickly Sweet”. Elle takes on a moderate tempo for this final recording and his voice complements the guitar track in such a way that it practically sounds like a duet. There are no holes in Jay Elle’s Ease Up. It’s a master class in pop singer/songwriter craft that stands out from the pack for a variety of reasons but chief among them is his ear for melody and personality shining through during each of the EP’s six performances. It’s a collection well worth pursuing.