Ellevator Emerge Fully Formed on 'The Words You Spoke Still Move Me'

BY Alisha MughalPublished May 6, 2022

For a debut to emerge as if forged of a decades-long discography is an impressive feat, but that's exactly what Hamilton-born trio Ellevator accomplish with The Words You Spoke Still Move Me. A lyrical and musical success, this album turns each of our minutest feelings, each failure and seemingly inconsequential hurt, into raging epics, blowing them up to the Hellenic proportions they hold in our minds and lives. This album washes caked blood to reveal years-old scars, all as it arms for their retribution.  

Produced by Chris Walla (formerly of Death Cab for Cutie) and created by the trio of vocalist Nabi Sue Bersche, guitarist Tyler Bersche and bassist-keyboardist Elliott Gwynne, Ellevator's debut rides a strong wave of inspired, literary lyricism and stunning guitar and keyboard work that harkens back to the best of early 2000s emo and punk rock. By giving a new vocabulary to an exposed-nerve kind of pain and anger like hot tears scalding a path down cheeks, The Words You Spoke Still Move Me dares those who hurt (including ourselves) to try it again. It comes not from a place of infallibility or a kind of austere sageness, but from a more terrifying place: one too tired to be fearful anymore, a place of knowledge attendant to rock bottom, and the strength this knowledge brings in the form of growth.

Studded about halfway through the album is the moody "Mother." Harkening back to the best of Paramore and Metric, this track about grief best encapsulates Ellevator's lyrical prowess. "The words you spoke still move me, clinging to my mind / Whatever you are now, spirit or ghost, I see you in those moments and you feel so close," Bersche sings in the chorus. Reckoning with the weight of what it means to carry memories of those who leave, Bersche's voice contains a steady strength that seems to suggest she has learned grief's workings, and, even if it sucks, she's perhaps better equipped to deal with its bite now, seeing the steps it takes to process it. "I don't want to, but I'm going to, I don't want to be the one who mourns you," Bersche laments as the keyboard persists like a heartbeat. "I don't want to, but I'm going to, I don't want to see you around each corner / I don't want to, but I'm going to, I don't want you let you go." The drums and electric guitar here are galvanizing and mighty, pure 2005, and as they reach the song's close, they twirl and pirouette, a veritable symphony of beautiful noise crafted with bleeding care. 

On late-album standout "Better," the electric guitar blooms like an orchid — sweetly at first and then stunningly. A track whose words look at what it looks like to move from being for someone to ultimately being for oneself, "Better" excavates hurts new and old, alchemizing them through lyrics lush as a Daphne du Maurier novel into occasions of growth, to badges that are a testament of perhaps not a life being lived well, but being lived at all, which sometimes is the greatest feat. "Are we defeated, did the season pass with no good news," intones Bersche. "Our intention faded shortly after it bloomed," she sings in a voice that would be easy to compare to Phoebe Bridgers's, but that would be more comfortable among the likes of Stevie Nicks and even Vanessa Carlton.

There's an element on this record that emo-lovers can appreciate, the lyrics so juicy you splatter your shirt and gum up your hands. Ellevator, through words as beautiful as the music here, remind us of the beauty of words themselves, especially as they are related by Bersche's voice, which seems to take so much joy in the utterance of each syllable. The rich vignettes contained by the lyrics aren't narrative; rather, they're metaphorical and aphoristic, almost academic, containing the insights only gleaned from hard-earned experience, containing nuggets of wisdom listeners will be afraid they'll lose if they don't cherish every word. Indeed, each word here is cherished by the band as well: music and lyrics combine to create for tracks that seem familiar while being deliciously new.  

"Party Trick" is this album's sleeper hit, beginning like curtains drawn back from eyes, with the persistent, unrepentant plucking of a keyboard. Backed by an electric guitar like a gilded stairway, the lyrics on this track flow like a logical argument unfurling, with each premise building upon its predecessor, landing at the conclusion like a punch in the gut. The track speaks of a person who has become inured to sadness to the extent they mesmerize others with it, and the form of this track follows this idea, presenting dazzling music to distract from the acidic, admonitory words. The effect of this song is to beguile you, to make you elide your own culpability in your own sadness, even as it makes you nod your head to its accusations. "You could have anybody, but you don't want nobody / 'Cause if you had somebody, you wouldn't be alone / And that's your party trick," Bersche's voice reasons. "I'm done with it," she sings finally — a diss that could so easily be directed at oneself.

The reverence for words on this album is perhaps its greatest gift, and through it, Ellevator are able to allow listeners to glean their multiplicity of meanings and attain a unique understandings about hard-earned strength. Like a steadying hand on one's shoulder, The Words You Spoke Still Move Me will walk listeners through each their idiosyncratic turmoils in the cathartic way of early 2000s pop rock, with the added newness of Bersche's delicately biting voice and the expertly wrought, skillfully played music. One wonders how such a young band will ever top this debut, and hopes they mightily will.
(Arts & Crafts)

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