Album review: Elk – beech

Elk’s debut album ‘beech’ is an outer body experience. Brimming with mysticism, it consumes your very soul, levitating it far above your limp body below. The unfurling fingerpick of Leeds based multi-instrumentalist Joey Donnelly bounds like vine around a stick, while his ethereal whisper possesses more power than its aware of, immersing you entirely in its thrall. 

As a child Donnelly’s family moved around constantly, the anomaly in that  story, a house on Beech Avenue where they stayed a while. It’s where his album gets its name and the intimate production contained within is indicative of Donnelly’s aptitude for the personal. Every scrape, every scrawl of his oaken guitar making its way on to the final cut, the epic ‘Something’ even ends with a sniff of the nose, perhaps to make up for the bouncing drums that came before, Donnelly shy at the sheer size of them.

Recorded at his family home, not on Beech Avenue, ‘beech’ is an incredibly personal album, taking cues from major influence Phoebe Bridgers. His words take no prisoners, their searing honesty indicative of an artist aware of his fallibilities, aware that he’s all-too human. ‘Yue’ is as plainspoken as it gets, “I’ve fucked it up / and I can’t pretend that / I don’t miss you” Donnelly regrets, while ‘Winter’ shows a man incapable of seeing a way out, “Tell me when this will be done.” 

As ‘Stupid World’ closes the album and the past 21 minutes disappear along with the dust, you’ll find yourself unable to move. A little like when a novel ends with one final twist, you’ll just have to sit there, take stock and most importantly breathe before returning to the space that surrounds you. 

Elk plays Balloon Machine Presents #2 alongside Toronto singer-songwriter Merival.

beech is out now on Bad Paintings

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