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Ellis - The Fuzz EP Music Album Reviews

Linnea Siggelkow downsized her city of choice, a move that inspired her to confront confusion and ambivalence in six dream-pop gems that carve out a welcome space of security.

Unable to keep pace with the rising rents of her home base in Toronto, Ontario, songwriter Linnea Siggelkow decamped last year an hour west to Hamilton, a smaller, less-hectic place with a working-class soul and fertile DIY scene. Liberated from the bustle and hustle of big-city living, she began exploring pensive songs that unfurl at a deliberately languid pace, like someone dipping their toes into a cold swimming pool. The six dream-pop reveries of the resulting debut EP as Ellis crackle with just enough distortion to earn their name, The Fuzz. And that feeling is as mental as it is musical, as she works through a mix of confusion, sadness, anxiety, and ambivalence. But these songs are neither about wallowing in that void nor necessarily rising out of it. They’re about learning to acclimate and carve out a space of security in a world that offers only perpetual instability.

Siggelkow established this template as early as July 2018 with the release of her divine first single, “The Drain,” The Fuzz’s grand opener. A meditation on the disorienting qualities of desire, “The Drain” crystallizes all of Ellis’ defining qualities—rainy-day guitar ripples, slow-motion momentum, luminous synth smears as vivid and static as a nighttime skyline. But Siggelkow’s distant-yet-direct voice projects confidence and fortitude in its naked vulnerability despite barely being pitched above a whisper.

The rest of The Fuzz presents variations on that theme, but each track inhabits its own distinct phase of loneliness. “Frostbite” is about excommunicating a selfish, toxic influence (“I wish that I never knew you,” Siggelkow sings on the chorus) from one’s life; its gradual journey from a Velvets-like torpor to a cathartic crescendo reflects the emotionally fraught process of working up the nerve to tell that person to fuck off. The gorgeous melancholy of “What a Mess!” maps the flipside of achieving independence, as a forlorn Siggelkow ponders sinister amusements: “Took the scissors to my hair again/Another form of self-destruction.” But the way she repeats the chorus—“What a mess I’ve made of this”—feels less like a pity party than an act of accepting responsibility.

As The Fuzz plays out, you sense Siggelkow becoming more resolute. Like a doom-metal Mazzy Star, she leans into the distortion pedal as she lays into an ex on “All This Time.” And her paralyzing ennui finally boils into something resembling rage during the title track; for its stormy finale, she cries out the chorus as if self-administering an emergency adrenaline shot. Still, even if you shake yourself out of the fuzz, the symptoms can creep back. On the EP’s stark closer, “N Y E,” Siggelkow finds herself spending the rowdiest night of the year at a party of one, her ghostly voice enveloped by a guitar whose distortion seems to pick at the scabs. She signs off with a missive heavier than the Times Square apple: “After midnight/In the windowless dark/I was falling asleep/You were breaking my heart.” She drifts off, safe in the knowledge that she’s survived another shitty year just to start the next one.

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