Ellis, “Nothing Is Sacred Anymore”
Nothing Is Sacred Anymore
We’re officially well into the part of the pandemic where we can consume the art produced during its early stages—and it’s understandable if you choose not to, you’d be forgiven for not being overly excited or equipped to face it. But some of us need to hear that music and read those essays and watch those TV episodes, just like some of us need to produce them. It’s called survival, and we all do it differently, which is to say that art is indeed essential. If you’re ready to gaze into the abyss a little bit, consider Ellis.
Ellis—a.k.a. Hamilton, Ontario’s Linnea Siggelkow—released her first EP, The Fuzz, in late 2018, drawing media attention and comparisons to Mazzy Star and Slowdive. She then toured consistently for a year, supporting that release and working out material for her debut LP, Born Again, which had the misfortune of an April 2020 release date. Ellis found her tour cancelled and her steady momentum halted completely. In response, she began working on new music. Her recently cleared schedule gave her the time and focus to make more intentional decisions about her collaborators and the production and recording processes, and she gave herself complete creative control over the material. The resulting four-song EP, the aptly titled Nothing Is Sacred Anymore, is about as pretty as a pandemic gets.
The music is carefully crafted to lure you in and float around in your brain long after it’s over, and its dreamy DIY production might classify it as bedroom pop (a term that’s now a literal description of the recording location of anything produced over the past sixteen months). The lyrics are brutal; they’re simple and uncomplicated in a way that will devastate you before you even know what’s happening. Exhibit A: the chorus of “What If Love Isn’t Enough,” which is the song’s title paired with a melody that will return to you when you least expect it, and then you’re crying again. On closing track “Hell,” Ellis and her partner, Chastity frontman Brandon Williams, sing together: “I’ve seen hell and I’m not afraid to die.” Desperate times are also a prime opportunity to take a look around and see who’s still by your side, as Ellis does in “Hospital”: “And in the hospital / His whole face turned green / But he stayed brave just for me.”
The EP’s opener, “Dopamine,” could be a commentary on the upheaval of 2020, or it could be any night in any relationship since the advent of smartphones. It opens with Ellis singing softly over a simple piano line: “Said I felt uneasy / Turned your back towards me / To fall asleep / To the sound of a fan / And the glow of a screen.” Is this just what life is now, or was this always life? Nothing Is Sacred Anymore doesn’t provide a clear answer, but that’s kind of the point. It finds Ellis incisively examining our shared low-grade daily terror after spending considerable time with it, and we should thank her for making it a little more palatable as we emerge—or not—from the haze.