After three albums, Robert Ellis has chosen to make his new self-titled effort (out June 3 on New West Records) less about the world around him and more about internal intrigue. It finds him expounding on subjects that are close at hand, perceived through tangled emotions, conflicts of the heart, and other concerns that give cause for contemplation. It’s somewhat self-obsessed, but Ellis finds plenty of ground that others can relate to — namely longing for love, living through shattered circumstance, and the tenuous bonds that bring people together and often tear them apart. Granted, these subjects tend to be more sobering than celebratory; but happily, most of the melodies are upbeat, exuberant, and less likely to be mired in melancholia, despite the subjects at hand.
The hopeful view of “Perfect Strangers,” the upward gaze of “Amanda Jane,” and the earnest, optimistic “California” (“Maybe I’ll fall in love someday, but I’m not going to hold my breath”) keep the tone on a positive tilt, contributing to the disc’s pleasing vibe.
Still, Robert Ellis does boast its share of darker designs as well: the abstract noodling of “It’s Not OK” and the bittersweet “You’re Not the One” serve as a reminder of the more sobering sentiments in play. Nevertheless, the disc makes for a well-conceived song cycle of sorts, one that deals with the tattered whims of the individual ego and the struggle to find a path through a sometimes-menacing malaise.
Ellis bares his soul for the sake of the song and emerges with a remarkably revelatory album that finds him on firm footing.