Debut filled with the subtle beauty of love, pain and hope.
‘baby blue’ is the first collection from ella ruby (in lower case), a singer-songwriter from Seattle. Comprising five tracks of acoustic music with softly whispered, sometimes sultry vocal stylings, these are songs which encourage immersion and repeated listens.
The music throughout is fluid and understated, ebbing and flowing through the songs like rippled waters lapping up against the shoreline. The marker for work such as this, though, is the lyrics; and it is a treat to find the depth to these words, which are imbued with artistry, craft and poetry in equal measure. The songs are brief but the words are beautifully placed, so full of subtle nuance and light and shade.
Opener ‘last year’ makes use of bass notes that sound like they’ve strolled out of Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, and some scurrying string arrangements. ‘baths’ has a really unusual lyrical conceit which is so personal it almost does feel intrusive to hear it. It is really a piece of great beauty and subtlety. ‘l.a. lover’ is playful and smart, jazzy west coast chords and the sweet capturing of that moment when a new relationship pushes itself into the same headspace as the old ones that have gone.
‘in my car’, meanwhile, uses the (possibly literal) description of the young artist buying a car to get herself around, and also provide her with a living space; however, as the description of all that the car means expands over the verses, tiny details appear to illustrate the writer’s own life, in almost unbearable closeness – “it gave me a sense of safety/ to think that I could lock things out/ in my car, my body is mine”; until the matter-of-factly chilling conclusion, that the things that give us an illusion of safety may not be as safe as they appear.
Finally, closing number ‘arbors’, so delicate, such a beautiful melody, so full of hope after hurt; all the nameless fears of the night are gathered, but soothed under ella ruby’s hands and voice – “I am empty endlessly, but maybe I am enough”. Stunning.
Musically, these are all beautifully recorded vignettes, built around soft picking on the acoustic guitar, but with many other shades thrown in to create soundscapes of great warmth and vibrancy. For someone who has a background in musical theatre, there is precious little over-emoting, and this is all to the good; these are songs that whisper their truths, not beat you around the head with noisy drama. They are more akin to lullabies, albeit ones with very adult themes swirling beneath their deceptively smooth waters. It would be easy to imagine them soundtracking films and tv series of similarly complex, heartfelt work.
Five tracks is enough to introduce an artist, and to leave us wanting to hear more; ‘Baby blue’ more than succeeds to all that it aspires, and ella ruby is an artist to find and to treasure.